The number of penalties issued to parents for taking their children on holiday during term term has rocketed by more than 1,500 per cent in the last five years.

Parents in Essex have been fined more than £750,000 during that period.

From just 409 unauthorised leave of absence notices issued by Essex County Council in 2012/2013, last year the council issued 6,612.

The total fines paid have increased from £34,990 to £347,330 – a total of £760,000 worth of fines

There has also been a sharp spike in the number of prosecutions from 31 in 2012/13 to 183 in 2017/2018.

The total number of convictions in the period currently stands at 147.

Essex County Council says it has a duty to ensure parents or guardians carry out their legal responsibility of making sure their child attends school.

If unauthorised absences continue, you may be issued with a £60 penalty notice, per parent per child.

Failure to pay will lead to prosecution with maximum penalties of up to £2,500 or a custodial sentence.

Recent changes from October last year, to the Essex Code of Conduct for Penalty Notices, mean a penalty notice may also be issued if ten unauthorised absence sessions have occurred during a ten-week period.

A penalty notice may be issued if there are six or more unauthorised sessions due to a holiday taken during the first two weeks of September.

The council has been approached for comment.

Iain Gunn, headteacher of St Peters Primary School in South Weald said: “I think it’s the state of the economy maybe  – people finding it harder to afford holidays in term time. And there is a huge difference in price.

“We have families where it is less than half price if they go three or four days early. I think that has something to do with it.

“I don’t think there has been huge change in the numbers of families taking holidays in school time.

A parent from Brentwood said, in response to the figures: “The focus should not be on parents but on holiday companies and airlines who increase prices substantially in school holidays. Yes there are issues of supply and demand-but shameless profiteering is another thing. People are fed up being ripped off.”