The big debate on holidays in term time

By | Category: Travel rumblings

It’s over.  For now. MP’s have aired the grievances of their constituents. Will anything change?

I have just read the 38 pages in Hansard that report the 150 minute debate. Lots of talk, a few suggestions and advice to the

to holiday in term time or not?

to holiday in term time or not?

government but will they act?

Introduced by John Hemming who quoted extensively from the two people who did so much to publicise this – Donna Thresher and Paul Cookson – he started with a constituent who had pointed out that a flight to Turin was £54 on a Tuesday, £112 on a Thursday and £344 on a Friday. How can parents afford this a constituent asked?

As the debate wore on MP’s were quick to give constituent views and many said their postbags had bulged with examples.

The crux of the issue is that head teachers had the discretion to allow children to be taken out of school for 10 days. The regulations that came in force for the September term last year tighten that up. Parents are being fined or telling schools that their children have been ill.

MP’s seem to be suggesting a return to the previous system, giving heads that discretion. It is plain that it isn’t an air passenger tax decision because domestic tour operators also raised their prices. It boils down to market forces. More people want to holiday when their children are on holiday. Another solution is to stagger school holidays so that they take place of a longer period of time. Will that alter things? I would have thought that the higher prices will operate for that extended period as tour operators seem to maximise their income.

One criticism raised by Justin Tomlinson was that there is pressure from Ofsted on high attendance percentages by pupils because it looks at attendance records when rating a school. As he said, “If a school decides to say that, because of cost and work pressures, it will allow a good level of discretion, its attendance records do not look good.”

It was left to Damian Hinds who used to work in travel to point out hotels, attractions and other suppliers to holiday providers charge more in summer so prices to consumers would have to rise anyway. It isn’t just families that feel the increase. Anyone holidaying in peak times would.  It was left to Andy Sawford to point out that by tightening up the regulations,  the Government have effectively strengthened the monopoly in the holiday period by making it increasingly difficult for parents to have any kind of flexibility?

Replying to this the government minister, Jenny Willott (from Business not Education so they were gaps in her knowledge) said that the Deregulation Bill, which is currently before the House, will extend the power to set term dates to all schools by 2015. The Government believe that term dates should be dealt with locally, through negotiation and co-operation across an area, to take into account the educational needs of students and the practicalities.

So will that solve things? This debate has more steam in it still!

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