Official statistics published by the Department for Education show that family holiday was the second most common reason for absence in the autumn term.

It suggests that parents are still trying to take advantage of cheap deals outside school holidays.

Almost one in four (24%) of days missed due to holidays were not authorised by the school.

In total, family holidays accounted for 0.59% of half days missed - the equivalent of around 2.5 million days.

Of these, 0.45% were authorised by the school, and 0.14% were unauthorised.

The statistics show that more than 57,400 primary and secondary pupils skipped classes without permission on a typical day in the autumn term, through truancy, family holidays, illness and other reasons, an analysis of the statistics suggests.

Some 29,200 primary and secondary school pupils were classed as "persistent absentees" - missing one day of school a week - with a further 275,230 at risk of joining them.

Overall, the truancy rate in England's primary and secondary schools fell to 0.93% of half days missed for the autumn term 2009, from 0.98% in the autumn term in 2008.

But there was a 3.3% increase on the autumn term of 2006, when the truancy rate stood at 0.90%.

In primary schools the truancy rate last autumn was 0.62%, a 29.2% rise on autumn 2006, when the rate was 0.48%.

But in secondaries, 1.28% of half days were missed due to unauthorised absence in autumn 2009 - a 6.6% fall on autumn 2006 when the figure was 1.37%.