FINES handed out to parents for taking their children on holiday during term time have more than doubled in the past year, according to figures released by Swindon Borough Council.

In the year 2014/2015, 1,878 fines were issued to parents on behalf of schools, compared with 767 in the year 2013/2014, and 751 in 2012/2013.

The figures are also almost four times higher than fines issued in the year 2011/2012, which was 415.

The data comes after an investigation by the Press Association revealed the number of families penalised for taking their children out of school time had almost trebled in just two years, with figures obtained under the Freedom of Information act revealing at least 50,414 penalty notices were issued due to children being taken out of lessons for trips in the past two years.

A Swindon Borough Council spokesman said: “The council issues fines at the request of each individual school, who are responsible for identifying unauthorised absences and reporting them to us.

"We have seen a big increase in the numbers, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that this is solely due to a similar increase in the number of parents ignoring the law compared to the year before.

"Another factor could be that schools are being less lenient with parents in the second year of the new legislation being in force.”

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, with the Department of Education insisting any absence from school has a detrimental impact on a child’s schooling.

A 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.”

But the Local Government Association has criticised the policy, saying a common sense approach should be taken by schools and the current system in unworkable.

Roy Perry, chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, told the BBC: “It is clear that the current system does not always favour families, especially those that are struggling to meet the demands of modern life or have unconventional work commitments.

“There has to be a sensible solution whereby every family has the option to spend time together when they choose to, without fear of prosecution from education authorities.

"The current rules tie families to set holiday periods. They make no allowances for what a family would class as a special occasion or take into account a parent’s work life.”