THE number of fines given to parents for taking their children on holiday during school term time has more than doubled over the course of two academic years.

Across Sussex, schools handed out 2,286 fines to parents who took their offspring out of school for holidays during the academic year 2012/2013.

The following year, this almost doubled to 4,443 fines in 2013/2014 because of a Government crackdown on absence, including strict new rules on term-time holidays introduced in England.

And last year, 2014/2015, it went up again by almost a quarter to 5,516.

The fines were handed out by Brighton and Hove City Council, East Sussex County Council and West Sussex County Council - the education authorities for the county.

Brighton and Hove City Council has gone up from 127 to 983 in two years. In that period East Sussex County Council

has gone from 1,237 to 2,131 and in West Sussex it has risen from 922 to 2,402.

The news comes after mother Annie Heath presented her petition to Brighton and Hove City Council to ask them to look at changing school holiday dates to help parents.

Following her campaign councillors are looking at options including combining five inset days into an extra week so families can get cheaper holidays.

An investigation has revealed soaring numbers of families were being penalised, amid concerns that the move is "punishing" parents.

A breakdown of the figures comes before children across England have their half-term break this week.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said: "There will be times when children have to miss school because of problems such as illness and family emergencies.

"Schools are very sympathetic in these cases and will help children catch up with work. However, term time holidays are not a valid reason to miss school."

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.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron called on the Government to review its position on fines.

He said: "Punishing parents financially for making individual decisions about their children's education is not the way to improve our education system."

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."