MPs debate family holiday price hikes

The high cost of families going away during school holidays has come under scrutiny by MPs – and Michael Gove has suggested that parents should take action.

The debate was started by an e-petition, signed by nearly 170,000 people, which called on the government to cap the increases charged by travel firms during school holidays. The problem was exacerbated by a change in the rules last September which meant that headteachers can only grant time off during term time in ‘exceptional circumstance’; previously parents had been able to take their children out of school for ten days during the academic year.

During the debate MPs suggested staggering school term dates and giving teachers discretion on absences during term time, but did not back price regulation, the BBC reports. Lib Dem MP John Hemmings, who requested the debate, said the issue was a “considerable concern” to many people, but that price capping was not a practical solution.

Lib Dem Consumer Affairs Minister Jenny Wilcott admitted that she is very sympathetic to families who struggle to take holidays during the peak season: “But they should not be at the expense of a child’s education, and school attendance throughout the school year does remain absolutely critical”, she said, adding that children missing school could have a negative impact on fellow pupils and teachers.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said that parents should lobby their child’s school to change its term dates, the Mail reports. He argued that many schools – about 70% of secondaries and 30% of primaries – can already do so, and the Coalition will extend this power to all schools by September next year. However, he said that it was wrong for parents to take children away in term time and defended the tough penalties introduced as part of last year’s rule changes. “There’s no need to sacrifice your child’s education in order to secure a cheaper holiday. Schools now have the freedom to change their term dates in order to allow students and families the opportunity to go on holiday at different times,” he said. “My view is that the holiday industry needs to look at itself in the mirror and ask if it is doing enough.”

Where do you stand on the holiday debate? As a teacher, do you see pupils’ education being damaged? If you’re a parent, are you finding the cost of holidaying during the peak periods prohibitive?

10 thoughts on “MPs debate family holiday price hikes

  1. This is another example of making rules which are knee jerk reactions and do not add value to the majority. It is a cash cow to raise revenue and bully families and schools into a prescriptive, one size fits all reaction.
    The old system, which broadly held the expecting of holidays to be taken in term time worked. Schools had minimal discretion and parents had to respectfully request and explain reasons for the changes.
    The issue of absences is real, but not caused by the odd day to catch a flight early or a week once in a blue moon. The issue is persistent lateness or absence and this policy does not address these issues.
    Families who work cross counties already find it hard when holidays don’t coincide. There are many employers who set limits on time off during peak work or project times. These children and families miss out. Or they pay.

    The right of parents and schools to work reasonably together has been removed and a punitive tax, revenue making system brought in by the back door. Shame on you Mr Gove, Mr Cameron an Mr Clegg. None of which would be affected since the parliament shuts during these times and they earn enough to pay the high prices.

    I don’t want my kids missing out. I also firmly believe that a prolonged summer break, when the weather is good and light plentiful, is vital time. Please don’t take this away too. These are our children.

    I feel so angry about this.

  2. Staggering school terms is not new, and it seems a great way to push travel firms to remove the school holiday hikes in price. Then parents wouldn’t need to take their kids from school to get cheaper holidays, and give the holiday industry a bigger spread of holiday periods, seems like a win win!
    Dave S

  3. As a teacher I say good luck to any school attempting to vary term dates. Schools have difficulty changing even a single teacher inset because of consumer demand for co-ordinated holidays. Parents can’t have their cakes and eat them! Having to have local authority wide Inset days prevented the free and effective teacher training of peer observation in neighbouring schools in my last authority.

    Parents need to see changes in holiday choices as just another responsibility of parenting. When our children were young we had cheap camping holiday breaks. And guess what, friends children enjoyed sharing these holidays more than the ‘boring’ (sic) exotic holidays accompanying their own parents.
    Also, as a teacher I’ve seen a strong correlation in those parents likeliest to take term-time holiday and wanting to blame teachers for children’s under performance. Particularly difficult in Maths. Teaching long division when 10 children absent from a class and moving on to symmetry, or some such as the absentees return. The teaching gaps can never be plugged.

  4. Tricia

    I agree with everything that you say. On another point I think it is ridiculous to think that governments can regulate by how much firms increase their prices during the main school holiday periods. What do they know about the pricing of holidays? If too many parents want holidays at the same time the only way for firms to sell the holidays available is to increase the price. If parents won’t pay the price the prices will come down. Also if prices are higher more firms will want to start selling holidays; so this will reduce prices. If the government tries to fix prices I fear that holiday companies will end up having to artificially inflate prices during non-holiday periods in order to charge the prices they need to charge in peak season.

  5. Gove is quite right. Schools should have more holidays in winter to save on energy costs and allow parents to take their offspring to the Maldives. This would then allow the holiday industry to reflect on its service.
    Think of the savings if all schools did this after being ‘lobbied by all the parents’ – and of course the rules of supply and demand would just be ignored!

    What is happening to this country…things are getting more bizzare every week! It seems to be suffering from a disease of systematic generalisations which is being led by a myriad of political clones/clowns (sp.)

  6. What if you have children in two schools? Like myself one in primary school and two in secondary school?

  7. I feel sorry for many people with the issue of school holidays.
    Parents cannot always get leave from work during school holidays. What are they supposed to to in that position?
    Schools being able to take holidays as they wish could make for even more problems. Parents with children in different schools could easily find that they do not match.
    Teachers who work in an area other than where they live could find that they are not on holiday at the same time as their children, or, if they are married to another teacher, not at the same time as their spouse.
    The issue of the high price of holidays is a problem but simply to say that this could be solved by allowing schools to set holidays independently would create a lot of other problems.

  8. What about teachers who are also parents whose hands are tied and can’t afford to take their children away on holiday? Asking holiday companies to take a look in the mirror and self-regulate is ridiculous! The cynic in me wonders if the government gets back handers from the holiday industry! The only way to put a stop to holidaying in term time is to cap peak season holidays.

  9. Quite right Clare, teachers can never take advantage of cheaper holidays we are always tied to the ‘expensive high season’ which cripples us as families wanting a foreign holiday. I appreciate that you could stay in the UK but these prices go up three fold too. Holiday companies need to consider all these factors.

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