MORE than 600,000 school days were lost by Scots pupils last year as parents took them on holiday.
New figures have revealed that the number of children missing school has almost doubled in the past decade, rising from 343,842 in 2003-04.
But now more parents than before are willing to take their children out of school to go on holiday, causing an 81 per cent increase in unauthorised absences.
Parents have blamed travel companies for hiking their prices during holiday periods.
Measures are in place to persuade parents to keep children in school, including referrals to the children’s panel, but with a total of 623,246 days lost, they do not appear to be working.
The Tories say that although they can “sympathise with parents, pupils benefit most from being in the classroom”. However, the Scottish Government says that despite these soaring figures, there was actually a rise in attendance over the past year.
A spokeswoman for the National Parent Forum said: “We all know how important family time is, particularly when money is short. But we’d encourage parents to avoid taking their children out of school during term time, as it does impact on their learning.
“It would be helpful if holiday companies did not increase their prices so much during school holidays.”
She said the forum would urge parents to talk to the school about their predicament and attempt to get the absence authorised: “Schools can allow absences for particular circumstances and arrangements can be made to ensure children don’t miss out on school.”
The Scottish Government figures also show that a total of 418,742 half days were missed by secondary pupils. And a further 827,751 were recorded as unauthorised by primary schools.
Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Mary Scanlon said: “It is worrying to see such a large increase in days missed due to unauthorised holidays.”
Although she expressed sympathy for parents who want to have special events for children during term time such as holidays, she acknowledged that “pupils benefit most from being in the classroom”.
The new figures do not include other reasons for non-attendance, such as sickness or truancy.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The overall rate of attendance in Scottish schools rose from 93.1 per cent to 93.6 per cent in 2012-13.
“We understand that holiday periods have been a contentious issue for parents, but we have emphasised the value of learning and the pitfalls of disruption for pupils, the rest of the class and the teacher in our guidance for schools.”
He added: “It is for local authorities to judge how to treat unauthorised absence due to holidays.”
Parents also face spiralling childcare costs during school holidays. A survey carried out by the Family and Childcare trust found that Scots were facing a 22 per cent increase in childcare costs in 2012.
They identify the price hike as being a likely result of reduced local authority subsidisation as part of budget cutbacks.