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'Reduce holiday fares to help parents avoid school fines'

FAMILY TIME: Parents with kids on holiday

PEOPLE WHO take their family on holiday in term time could be fined £100 by the school if they fail to get permission for their children to miss lessons, the Government has warned. Taking term-time holidays without permission can be treated as truancy. Not everyone is in agreement, however, and parents are now fighting back arguing that the cost for travel during school breaks is extortionate. Here, child advocate Erika Brodnock calls for a fairer pricing system to benefit families.

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FAMILY HOLIDAYS are intended to allow families to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, celebrate each other and relax in an enriching and unfamiliar environment.

The current economic climate has resulted in longer working hours for parents and less money staying in the family coffers owing to the hikes in prices of basic items such as food, clothing, utilities and childcare. Thousands of parents in Britain are struggling to make ends meet.

Families of four can expect price increases of up to 99 per cent for taking their children on holiday during the designated school holidays, leaving parents in the position where they are being forced to choose between offering their children the full benefit of a consistent education or a recreational holiday on which family life is enriched and parents get a much needed break.

Some parents are resorting to taking their children out of school during term time in a perceived fightback against inflated prices levied by the travel industry during school holiday peak times, with more than two-fifths prepared to ignore the new rules on fines for taking children on term-time holidays.

I say perceived fight because I believe the statement begs the question, fight with whom?

Taking a child out of education seems to me, more like a fight with the child than it does the travel industry or indeed the government that is imposing the fines. Statistics show that children who are in school consistently are almost four times more likely to achieve five or more A-C grades at GCSE level. Surely, a good education is essential in ensuring that, long term, our children are in the position to take their families on holiday should they decide to have them in future. What are we fighting for as parents, if not to give our children the skills they need for a brighter future?

It seems a shame to inflict the need to catch up and possibly even keep others in the class from moving forward because there is no regulation around what travel and tour operators are able to charge during peak times.


CALLING FOR REDUCTIONS: Erika Brodnock

The argument that the peak time prices are inflated to compensate for the off peak lulls in the industry is understandable. However, hikes at 99 per cent of the cost place that theory on shaky ground. Creating price increase caps at 10 per cent-15 per cent would provide the opportunity for more families to be able to afford to go on holiday during peak times, less children to miss out on valuable education and an environment in which the travel industry is able to survive the quieter months.

A petition is calling for action to stop the travel industry charging extra during school holidays. The petition has over 150,000 signatures, meaning it will now be considered for debate in the House of Commons. A response posted by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills places the blame on the “competitive market", stating: “In the holiday market there is fierce competition for custom … holiday companies must seek to make a reasonable profit during the peak periods so that they are able to operate throughout the year when demand and therefore prices and profits are lower."

The Association of Independent Tour Operators (Aito) has also defended the prices charged during school holidays; though it is adamant the current system needs to be changed. Derek Moore, chairman of Aito, says: “Aito urges the government to vary holiday dates from region to region in the UK and to stretch the peak season from six to 12 weeks, ie from mid-June to mid-September. That would allow holiday companies to reduce peak season prices. It would also offer huge economic benefits to some of the key holiday destinations (many of which are suffering huge unemployment and other financial problems) by lengthening their seasons. But while consumers may have some sympathy with seasonal trade, families with different children in different schools may well still be adversely affected by this situation; while if all families spend less on fares, they will have more to spend locally with the traders in the holiday destinations too.

Families are feeling increasing financial pressure and a sense of frustration is growing. Increased moderation and a fairer system is, in my opinion, the easiest way to ensure families are no longer forced to choose between an education and family time away together.

Erika Brodnock is a child confidence expert and the founder of Karisma Kidz which creates toys and games for children aged 3-9 and helps to build their social and emotional intelligence

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