THE NUMBER of fines given to parents for taking their children on holiday during term time has almost trebled in two years - with tens of thousands handed out last year alone.
An investigation by the Press Association reveals that soaring numbers of families are being penalised, amid concerns that they are being “criminalised”.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that in the last academic year alone, at least 50,414 penalty notices were issued due to children being taken out of lessons for trips.
Bradford and Doncaster had some of highest rates around the country, with the former the second highest nationally.
In all Bradford saw 3,319 fines, while Doncaster handed out 2,177.
The national picture is up 25 per cent on the year before, when at least 40,218 penalties were given out, and up 173 per cent from the 18,484 fines handed out by local authorities in 2012/13.
The hikes come in the wake of a Government crackdown on absence, including strict new rules on term-time holidays introduced in England two years ago.
Craig Langman, from Nuneaton, who founded the organisation Parents Want A Say to campaign against fines, said many mums and dads believe they are being made to feel like criminals.
Nearly 230,000 people have signed his petition calling for the fines to be scrapped. Headteachers said that while there are times when children have to miss school, holidays are not a valid reason.
A breakdown of the figures - which come the week before children across England break up for half-term - show that Lancashire Council handed out the most holiday fines last year at 3,907. Mr Langman said he took action after being threatened with a fine if he took his son out of school to visit his sick grandfather.
“I was seeing red. I thought, ‘how dare they tell me that I can’t my child out to see his family?’” he said.
He added: “Nearly a quarter of a million people have signed my petition and are saying they feel they are being made to feel like criminals.”
Ministers have argued that missing any amount of school is detrimental to a child’s education, but school absence reforms introduced in 2013 have proved controversial, with critics arguing that they have the biggest impact on those who cannot afford high travel costs during school breaks and families with parents that work shifts. 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 the Isle of Wight Magistrates’ Court after he argued the law requires parents to ensure their children attend school “regularly”, and did 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.”
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron called on the Government to review its position on fines, saying: “These latest figures show the damaging impact that the Government’s policy is having.”