More fines were issued to Essex parents after their children missed school last year than almost anywhere else in England, figures reveal.

Fines for school absences dropped significantly across England during the coronavirus pandemic – which the National Association of Headteachers described as unsurprising, as the crisis “fundamentally changed” the education landscape.

Department for Education data shows that 1,788 penalty notices were issued to Essex parents for a child’s poor attendance in 2020-21 – though measures did not apply for two months when schools were not open to all pupils.

Though no figures were available for 2019-20 because of the pandemic, the number of fines last year was down 84 per cent from 10,848 in 2018-19.

The area issued more fines than almost any other local authority in the country – accounting for 4 per cent of all penalty notices handed out across England.

Of the fines last year, 1,218 (68 per cent) were for unauthorised family holidays.

Across England, the number of notices issued fell from 333,400 to just 45,800 over this period – a fall of 86 per cent, and the lowest number since 2011-12.

Their use varied greatly in different parts of the country, with 15 local authorities issuing ten or fewer.