Head teachers in Lincolnshire have been told to clamp down on the number of holidays they authorise for pupils during the school term.
New figures have revealed pupils in the county take almost twice the national average of holidays during term time.
Lincolnshire County Council has said it will be forced to review the performance of schools and take action if the figures do not improve.
John O’Connor, head of school admission at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “The issue of authorised family holiday was first raised with headteachers to point out that this is an area requiring improvement and that schools must insist that parents justify why the holiday meets the ‘exceptional circumstances’ test.
“Where it doesn’t, it should not be authorised.”
Headteacher-approved holidays are the biggest cause of pupil absence after illness and accounted for 9.5 per cent of all missed lessons in the academic year 2010-11.
The national average is 5.9 per cent.
The tougher stance on the figures is part of Every Day Matters, the county council’s new initiative to improve school attendance.
Advice is also being given to schools on the legal options available to help with persistently absent pupils, including fines ranging from £60 to £2,500 and possible prosecutions.
In autumn 2011, there were 2,164 primary school pupils and 3,098 secondary school pupils classified as “persistently absent” in Lincolnshire.
Labour councillor John Hough, vice-chairman of the children and young people scrutiny committee, told the Echo he thought encouraging parents to be more supportive of their children would be more effective than threatening them.
He said: “If there’s someone persistently truant, that’s different.
“But if a parent takes their child our of school for a medical appointment or a short break because it was the only time they could get off work, then we have to be sympathetic.”
Jule Holmes, 47, a mum of two from Lincoln’s West Parade, said: “The economy is still reeling and we’re all still scrimping and scraping to get by.
“For most of us with kids, we can only afford to have a family holiday during school term time because it’s cheaper.”
Freddie White, deputy head at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School said: “There are ample opportunities for families to take holidays during the allocated holiday periods.
“While we understand they are more expensive, irreparable damage can be done to a young person’s learning when they miss school.”