School holiday debate heads to Parliament

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Family holidays are out of reach for many under the new rules
Family holidays are out of reach for many under the new rules

MPs will debate the introduction of school holiday fees and increased holiday prices at Westminster this afternoon following on-going comments from travel companies and parents.

In recent weeks many have commented on the higher cost for holidays during the time when children are off school, after new legislation was introduced on 1 September 2013 meaning parents are fined for each day their child is taken out of school during term time.

A not-for-profit organisation has been set up under the name Parents Want a Say which said it has sent the views of more than 200,000 parents to every MP ahead of the debate this afternoon.

The group is calling for the amendments in the term time rules to be scrapped.

Craig Langham, who launched the organisation said: “Parents are not saying that taking children out of school is an absolute right. They simply want to revert back to allowing Head Teachers to make common sense decisions based on circumstances. These new changes will affect many families who cannot afford the cost of a holiday during the normal mid-term break. It will also impact on businesses who cannot allow the majority of staff to be on holiday at the same time.”

Travel companies have also backed the parents’ view according to a Travelzoo survey, with 85% of respondents saying they have already seen a financial impact since the changes came into place last year.

Seven in 10 travel companies said the government should not interfere with family holidays and 67% felt it was unacceptable the industry was not consulted on before.

“We’ve seen cases in the media recently where parents have now been fined for taking their children out of school for holidays during term time, and a quarter of the travel companies we surveyed said that they might have to put prices up during the summer holidays to counteract the drop-off of families travelling during term time,” said Travelzoo’s European managing director, Richard Singer.

“We want to bring the industry together and are taking steps to form an alliance of operators and travel companies who want to work with the government to ensure that the situation improves for parents and the industry alike,” he added.

Travelzoo set up an e-petition called the ‘Parent Trap’ which already has 38, 504 signatures and calls for Air Passenger Duty to be reduced or scrapped during holiday time to help families afford a break during peak time.

Meanwhile ABTA has continued its stance and renewed its call for staggering school holidays by region like other European countries to lengthen out the peak periods in the summer and February half term particularly.

A poll of its members found 85% backed the staggered move and also encouraged families to book early to get the most affordable holiday.

“This poll shows that the industry is concerned about the issue and that it is committed to a constructive dialogue and to finding a workable solution to help alleviate some of the pressure around periods of extremely high demand that can result in higher prices. Our discussions with Parliamentarians in recent weeks make clear that MPs understand the way pricing works, and appreciate that the travel industry is highly competitive; our hope therefore is that Monday’s debate in Parliament will focus on considering staggering school holiday dates as an option that merits further review and consideration,” said Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA.

The debate will take place at 4.30pm this afternoon.

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