Parents across England and Wales have been fined about £24m for failing to send their children to school during the past three years, it has emerged.

A BBC investigation also shows some councils are issuing penalties at rates five times higher than the average. Some parents say they now actively budget for the cost of fines when planning holidays.

While some councils admit they have become “stricter”, they say they are protecting the education of children. Between them, 155 local authorities in England and Wales (Scotland and Northern Ireland do not issue fines) issued about 400,000 penalties over three years. A further 19 did not supply data.

On average, 12 penalties were issued per 1,000 children – whether for truancy or for parents taking children away on holiday during term time – during 2016-17.

Some councils issued penalties at rates five times the average, including the Isle of Wight (64 per 1 000 pupils), which last year won a long-running case over an unauthorised holiday, East Riding of Yorkshire (63 per 1,000) and Suffolk (60 per 1,000).

All three councils issued penalty tickets at a rate of more than 60 per 1 000 pupils (compared with 12 per 1 000 on average). Of the Welsh authorities, Merthyr Tydfil had the highest penalty rate at 4,6 per 1 000 pupils, less than half the average for England and Wales. – BBC.