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 reveals that soaring numbers of families are being penalised, amid concerns that they are being “criminalised”.
The fines for taking children out of school during term-time have proven controversial - at least 50,414 penalty notices were issued due to children being taken out of lessons for trips.
This is up 25% on the year before, when at least 40,218 penalties were given out, and up 173% 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, 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.
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.”
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.
Schools minister Nick Gibb said heads had discretion to allow pupils to be absent in “exceptional circumstances” such as for a funeral, but they would not be allowed to have a holiday on the back of it.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The rules say you can’t take leave from school during term time except in exceptional circumstances.
The minister added: “The way to avoid the fine, of course, is to not take your child out of school without the permission of a headteacher. The head teacher does have discretion to exercise when there are issues of compassion, when there are funerals or illness or so on.”