ESSEX has recorded the highest number of unauthorised school absences in the country, according to fresh figures.

In data released by the Department for Education, the total number of parents fined for their children's poor attendance at school in the 2017/18 year has rocketed by 74.7 per cent.

Of the 260,877 notices issued overall in England, Essex had the most, with 8,741.

Hampshire followed behind with 8,694, while Lancashire recorded 7,891 fines.

Suffolk had 6,556 fines.

The most common reason for a penalty notice being issued was unauthorised family holiday absence.

A total of 85.4 per cent of the penalty notices were issued for this reason in 2017/18, up from 77.5 per cent in 2016/17.

Of the 222,904 notices issued for unauthorised holiday in 2017/18, Essex recorded 6,603 - the fourth highest across the country.

The rise has been put down to a controversial ruling in May 2016 which, which saw dad Jon Platt win a high profile High Court case over taking his daughter out of school for a holiday to Disney World, Florida, without permission.

But the case was later referred to the Supreme Court, in April 2017, where Mr Platt lost.

The Government department said it contacted a small sample of local authorities with large changes about the increase in 2017/18.

It said: "All six that responded cited that the Supreme Court judgment in this case had an effect on the number of penalty notices issued in 2017/18, either as a result of returning to pre-court case levels following a slowdown or from a change in behaviour as a result of the ruling."

The amount owed under a penalty notice is £60 if paid within 21 days of receipt, rising to £120 if paid after 21 days but within 28 days.

If the penalty is not paid in full by the end of the 28-day period, the local authority must either prosecute for the original offence, or withdraw the notice.

Figures show 75 per cent of penalty notices issued in 2017/18 were paid within 28 days, 10 per cent were withdrawn, 7 per cent led to prosecutions and 8 per cent were unresolved at the end of the period.

Of the fines issued, 0.2 per cent were for arriving late and 14.3 per cent were for other unauthorised absence.