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Will Michael Gove's plan to change term times stop the family holiday price hikes?

By The Citizen  |  Posted: April 23, 2014

Michael Gove

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Parents in Gloucestershire say changing school term dates won’t do anything to help them avoid paying inflated family holiday prices.

Education Secretary Michael Gove urged mums and dads to lobby their child’s school to change their term dates and fox the travel companies.

Mr Gove attacked the travel industry for raising prices at peak times and said many schools had the power to set their own dates.

Currently around 70 per cent of secondary schools and 30 per cent of primaries can set their own dates, but those run by councils are unable to do so.

However, these powers will be extended to all schools by September under new laws drawn up by the Government.

Holidays during half-terms, Easter and the summer holidays can be up to twice as expensive as breaks during term-time.

But these plans will do little to cut the cost of family holidays, according to Sarah Murphy, president of Gloucestershire’s National Union of Teachers.

Sarah, who teaches at Stroud High School and has three school-age children, said: “The suggestions would add complexity to families trying to organise childcare.

“If there were no communication within the county and at least a basic similarity between our holiday dates, then my children and I could all have wildly different days off.

“Half-term holidays could be completely different from each other or even not exist at all.

“Holiday companies would maintain high prices for longer if there was a range of term dates.”

Parents face a fine of £60 for taking their children out of school in term-time, rising to £120 if unpaid within a week. Refusal to pay can mean a £2,500 fine and three years in jail.

Jane Collins, of Barnwood, is mum to two primary-age children. She said: “Headteachers should have more authority to look at individual cases. Look at overall attendance at school taking into account sickness, lateness, appointments etc – and then decide if a family deserves a fine for wanting to spend time together when they can afford it.”

Adele Goel, of Hucclecote, has one child at primary school and the other at secondary.

She said: “Considering the option to change term dates has already been available to voluntary-aided schools and academies and they haven’t altered their dates significantly from the LEA timetable, I fail to see how extending the option to other schools will cause the sea change the Government is intending.”

Rob Parnell, managing director of Gloucestershire-based Atlantic Holidays Ltd, said: “The reason why holidays are more expensive in peak times is not down to operators, it’s down to the hotels, resorts and airliners raising their prices because they have levels of demand which are far more than they can supply.

“It’s up to parents if they want to lobby their schools, but I think there’s much more involved in setting the term dates.”

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