A former Ofsted inspector says schools need to be more enjoyable to prevent parents taking their child out of class during term time.

Families hoping to take their children on holiday during the school year may end up with a hefty fine as Harrow Council sees a dramatic increase in fixed penalty notices over the last two years.

In 2013, the council issued 55 educational penalty notices due to unauthorised absences from school, according to a Freedom of Information request from the Harrow Monitoring Group.

However this has risen by more than 400 per cent in the last two years.

A total of 187 notices were issued in 2014, while 281 notices were issued to parents in just six months - between January and July this year.

The notices act as an alternative to prosecution, which do not require an appearance in court, with a penalty of £60 if paid within 28 days of receipt, rising to £120 if paid after the 28 days.

Husain Akhtar, of the Harrow Monitoring Group, said: “We would like the Harrow local authority and MPs to address truancy by improving parents’ socio-economic conditions and helping the schools to become more enjoyable place.

“Just forcing pupils to come to school does not necessarily make them good learners”

In 2013, the council took eight parents to court, involving ten children – of which nine were in secondary schools.

All seven sets of parents were found guilty and seven were issued with fines.

In 2015, eight parental prosecutions involving eleven children were brought to court by the local authority before July, with all parents being found guilty and six being fined.

Mr Akhtar, a retired Ofsted school inspector, added: “No doubt good attendance helps pupils learning but we believe that extended absence must be tackled by schools with support and dialogue first as well as more flexibility in the rules to allow heads to take account of family circumstances where absence was unavoidable.”

Courts can issue maximum fines of £2,500 or jail sentences of up to three months.

A Harrow Council spokesman said: “2015 is the first year that all schools in Harrow have been requesting EPNs from us, so it is normal that the number would be higher than in previous years.

“It is also worth pointing out that EPNs are rarely the first course of action in dealing with absenteeism.

“Schools and the Council will try many other types of persuasion and intervention first so it will naturally take time for EPN numbers to build up.

“Overall, attendance in Harrow is good and continuing to improve. EPNs remain a vital tool in the fight against school absenteeism because no initiative is effective without enforcement.”