AS airlines announce a new flight schedule, families will be itching to plan holidays after months of lockdown uncertainty.

But families should think twice before whisking their children away on holiday during term time after new figures show thousands of mums and dads across Lancashire were fined last year for unauthorised absences.

Across the whole of Lancashire, a total of 9,219 penalties for taking children out of school time were issued last year, a big jump from 2018, when it was 7,891. This makes Lancashire the area highest for penalties issued in the whole of the North West.

Of those penalties, 8,901 were unauthorised family holiday absences when the children should have been in school.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it will be compulsory for children to return to school in September this year - and could face fines if they don’t comply.

And with holiday companies reporting a huge spike in bookings for later in the year as travel restrictions ease, the figures serve as a warning to anyone thinking of keeping their child off school next term.

Blackburn with Darwen’s figures remained more or less the same, with 1,915 penalties issued last year, just one less than the previous year.

Of these, 258 were withdrawn in a 28-day period, and 190 were withdrawn when the council did not start legal proceedings.

In Blackburn there were also 70 prosecutions for people not paying their fines on time.

As well as taking children out of school for holidays in term time, there are also concerns some families may be wary of sending them back in September due to lingering coronavirus fears.

Cllr Julie Gunn, executive member for children, young people and education at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “Prosecutions are the last resort, education is so important and we try to work with parents to encourage high attendance rates rather than start issuing warning letters and penalties.

“The current situation is exceptional, and we hope parents understand we are doing everything we can do ensure children are safe. There is no guarantee about anything and we are aware of the issues we face in sending children back to school.”

Thousands of hopeful holidaymakers have rushed to book trips abroad as foreign breaks were given the green light with quarantine measures set to be dropped for some destinations.

The requirement to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to the UK will be scrapped for many popular destinations, meaning trips to France, Greece and Spain are now options for desperate parents willing to risk a fine. This has also caused a new surge in people booking holidays with firms like Eurotunnel Le Shuttle who have drafted in new staff to deal with the numbers.

Mum of three, Nazia Khan from Blackburn said she would not risk a fine just to go on holiday. The radiographer said: “I would send my children back in September if it was safe. If there are safety concerns regarding coronavirus then I would risk the fine.

“My daughter has already been going to school and will continue if everything is fine.

“I am happy to send them to school, but I will not be taking them on a holiday as they need to go to school for the time they have missed.

“I planned to take them to Disneyland in April and even if it was open now I would not go, it’s not worth the risk.”

In place of the quarantine arrangements, there will be a traffic light system, with officials placing countries into green, amber and red categories based on the significance of the virus in each place.

The list of quarantine-free countries is due to be published on Wednesday, with restrictions lifted as soon as July 6.

But Cllr Gunn does not think families will be keen to book holidays for term time.

She said: “I do not think parents will want to book holidays for the term times after the summer as they will be keen to send their children back to school.

“They have had three months off and my respect goes to the parents home-schooling their children during the lockdown period. I would be surprised if parents took their children on holidays, but we understand they may still be worried about coronavirus and may not want to bring them to school.”

In Lancashire, there were 726 prosecutions where the parents had not paid the fine, but 385 were withdrawn within a 28-day period and 150 withdrawn after the council did not wish to go ahead with legal proceedings.