The number of fines given to parents for taking their children on holiday during term time has almost trebled in two years.
New figures show that in the past academic year alone, at least 50,414 penalty notices were issued due to children being taken out of lessons for trips.
This is up 25 per cent on the year before, when at least 40,218 penalties were issued, and up 173 per cent from 2012-13 when 18,484 fines were handed out by local authorities.
A breakdown of the figures – obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Press Association – shows that Lancashire County Council handed out 3,907 holiday fines last year, the most of any local authority.
The figures come after government figures this week showed overall absence rates in state-funded primary and secondary schools increased slightly in the past academic year.
The rise in the number of fines follows a government crackdown on absence, including strict new rules on term-time holidays introduced in England two years ago.
Craig Langman, from Nuneaton, Warwickshire, who founded the organisation Parents Want A Say to campaign against fines, said the policy was criminalising parents.
Nearly 230,000 people have signed his petition calling for the fines to be scrapped.
“It is not for the government to be able to say what a family can and can’t do,” he said.
But Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said holidays were “not a valid reason to miss school”.
The future of holiday fines was thrown into question last week when a father won a court battle after refusing to pay a £120 fine for taking his six-year-old daughter out of school to go to Disney World, Florida.
The case against Jon Platt, 44, was thrown out at Isle of Wight Magistrates’ Court after he argued the law requires parents to ensure their children attend school “regularly”, and does not put restrictions on taking them on holidays in term time.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “It is a myth that missing school even for a short time is harmless to a child’s education.
“Our evidence shows missing the equivalent of just one week a year from school can mean a child is significantly less likely to achieve good GCSE grades, having a lasting effect on their life chances.”