Parents were forced to pay more than £4 million in fines in the last academic year for taking children on term-time holidays without school permission, new research reveals.

The data, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, shows which councils recorded the highest number of fines and prosecutions for parents taking their children on holiday during term time over the 2015-16 and 2016-17 academic years

Lancashire County Council issued the highest number of fines (5,768) in 2016-17, followed by Bradford Council (5,256) and Leeds Council (4,735).

The figures confirm that parents are still risking a £60 fine – which rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days – despite well publicised warnings around the rules of taking children out of school to go on holiday during term time.

If parents fail to pay the £120 fine within 28 days, then they can be taken to magistrates’ court under the Education Act 1996, which could lead to a criminal record, a further fine of £2,500 and even a jail sentence of up to three months.

However, despite these risks, parents are continuing to take their children on holiday during term-time and refusing to pay the resulting fine, leading to prosecution for many.

The figures obtained by currency provider International Currency Exchange, reveal that Tameside Council prosecuted the highest number of parents in 2016-17 at almost 1,600, followed by Manchester City Council at 385 and Lancashire Council with 365.

The research also revealed just how lucrative fines can be for Councils, with

Bradford Council received £284,830 in fines in 2016-17 – up 18% from £240,560 in 2015-16. Lancashire Council received the second highest amount in fines – £271,380, up 13% year-on-year.

However, councils actually issued less fines in the 2016-17 academic year than they did in 2015-16, with a 3% drop in the number of fines issued, and an 11% drop in the number of prosecutions.

The disclosure follows statistics from the Department of Education, released last month, showing that 3.65 million school days were lost in 2015-16 to holidays that were not authorised by a head teacher in England.

International Currency Exchange general manager Louis Bridger said: “It is quite shocking how much parents are willing to risk in order to go on holiday with their children during term time but, with tour operators and airlines charging extortionate prices for families to go abroad during the school holidays, many will see a £60 fine as a price worth paying for a cheaper getaway.

“However, as the results of the research show, prosecution is a real risk for parents who do decide to take their children on holiday during school term time, and something that just isn’t worth the savings on a holiday.

“We recommend that parents instead look to shop around when looking for a summer break, and look to make savings in other areas, such as their travel money, to make up the extra cost of going away during the school holidays.”