MORE than 600,000 school days were lost by Scots school kids last year as cash strapped parents took them on holiday instead.
New figures have revealed that the number of pupils missing school has almost doubled in the last decade rising from 343,842 in 2003/04.
But now more parents than ever are willing to take their kids out of school to go on holiday, causing an 81% increase in unauthorised absences.
Parenting forums are partially blaming travel companies for boosting their prices during holiday periods but would urge parents to discuss their circumstances with the school.
Measures are in place to persuade parents to keep their kids in school, including referrals to the children’s panel, but with a total of 623,246 days lost, they don’t 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 last year, going from 93.1 to 93.6.
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 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.
“If teachers are more time helping pupils catch up on work they have missed due to holidays then the education of other pupils will undoubtedly suffer.”
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 to 93.6 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% 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.