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?