MPs push for review of term time holiday fining policy
Westminster debate calls for more flexibility and staggered holiday dates for UK parents
Yesterday afternoon UK MPs used an online petition signed by 120,000 people to push for a review of the current term time holiday fining policy. According to the debate, the current policy, which was brought into effect by Michael Gove in 2013, has created a number of issues;
- It is having a negative impact on British tourism: Cornwall has seen a drop in visitors by 8% since the policy was announced and is losing £87,000,000 in tourism revenue year on year, as tourism trade becomes confined to the six weeks’ summer holiday period.
- It wrongly implies that time out of school only has a negative impact on pupils: Whilst the value of education was not doubted, MPs argued that spending time together as a family and learning about new cultures is also important and beneficial for children’s development.
- Is inconsistent: There is confusion amongst head teachers about what constitutes as ‘exceptional circumstances’ and the debate heard that 90% of teachers would welcome advice from the Government on what constitutes an exceptional circumstance.
- It undermines the place of the family: Parents tend to be good judges of their children’s interests and so they should have the right to decide what is best for their children, along with head teachers, who have relationships with the parents and children. This policy arguably intrudes on families.
Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay, who led yesterday’s debate said, “Whilst I support the aim of getting children to attend school regularly, I fundamentally disagree that telling parents when they can and cannot take their children on holiday is a job for the state. This policy effectively says to people who cannot take a holiday during school holiday times that they cannot have a family holiday - this to me seems completely unfair.” Double continued, “Every child is unique and it should be for their parents to decide what is right and best for their child. Some parents will decide the best thing for their child is to be in school at all times. Others will decide that the benefit of a family holiday and the experience of travel, experiencing new cultures and meeting new people is more beneficial for their child than being in school for that week but it should be for the parent to make that choice.”
Travelzoo’s European Managing Director, Richard Singer, has suggested a number of ways to make family holidays more affordable. One solution, which does not involve taking children out of school during term time, is the regional staggering of school holidays. Singer commented, “Most of the travel companies we’ve spoken with agree staggering should be investigated further, as it could lead to more affordable holidays for state-school parents. However, we believe it would only work if holidays were set per region, and not per school. It’s obvious that not enough has been done to help schools understand how best to implement it, and that’s been backed up by our meetings with head teachers, from our research and in yesterday’s debate.”
“In fact, research carried out by Travelzoo with nearly 500 state school teachers1 suggests less than only 1 in 20 (4%) will be taking advantage of so-called staggering, despite the fact it would alleviate a lot of the issues brought forward in yesterday’s debate. Adding to this, over half (54%) of the teachers and head teachers surveyed as part of the Parent Trap 2015 study said they weren’t even aware staggering was an option for their school.”
Singer concluded, “For UK holidays in particular we are confident costs could come down. If, for example, the summer-holiday period were staggered to encompass a 10-week period rather than our current six weeks, this would mean tourist hotspots like Devon and Cornwall would have a bigger window of opportunity to welcome UK families. This in turn would have a dramatic effect on local businesses, which suffer from excess demand in July and August followed by bookings dropping dramatically in September”.
Karen Wilkinson from The Parents Union commented, “We are in favour of staggering on a regional basis, one of a few possible solutions to the term-time fines, but allowances will have to be made to ensure families with children in different areas do not have less scope for holiday, that parents who have no choice over holiday times can be accommodated and that there is a far greater understanding of family needs at times of special events, illness and trauma. Teachers and head teachers need clear guidance on how schools can benefit from staggering and local councils will need to work with head teachers to ensure staggered holidays are set per region, and not per school, if this is going to be successful”.
- 478 UK primary or secondary teachers of state schools were surveyed by YouGov, on behalf of Travelzoo, between 16-25 June, 2015
Notes to editor
If you’d like to find out more on the story or set up an interview with Richard Singer, please contact;
Laura Higgins – 07824 352870, 020 7421 0498 (weekdays only) or firstname.lastname@example.org
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