Middle class parents are being warned that they are just as likely to face on the spot truancy fines if they book family holidays during term time.
Term time holidays will be punished
In a crackdown on parents who pull children out of school to take advantage of cheaper air fares and hotels, local education officers, police and school staff will be able to issue fixed penalty notices.
The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) said middle class parents had just as much responsibility to make sure their children attended lessons as those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
A spokeswoman said: "Any kind of absence that has not been authorised by the school is truancy, whether that is taking a child Christmas shopping, taking a Mediterranean holiday in the middle of school term or just letting a child roam around the local housing estate."
The measures are to be included in new anti-social behaviour legislation.
They follow growing concern among heads about the number of parents prepared to let their children miss lessons in order to save money.
"Children have a right to education and parents have a duty to ensure their children are educated," the DfES spokeswoman said.
Parents are allowed to take their children out of school for up to 10 days a year with the school's permission.
There are no plans to change that.
But last year the government announced plans for instant fines on the parents of persistent truants.
The level of the spot fines has not yet been decided by ministers.
Education minister Ivan Lewis said the government was determined to enforce "zero tolerance" on truancy.
"We regard taking children out of school for holidays without authorisation as truancy pure and simple," he told The Observer.
"Parents who are doing it are irresponsible. The evidence is that many parents take their children away without any compunction whatsoever. We think it
is totally wrong.
"The message to all parents is the same: this is not just a message to the disadvantaged. Truancy is not acceptable for whatever reason."