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School holiday debate: the options

School holidays debate: the options
25 Feb 2014

Yesterday (24 February), MPs in the House of Commons debated the issue of family holidays.

The discussion was triggered by an online petition calling for a cap on prices for going away during the school holidays, after the government banned children from taking time off during term unless there are 'exceptional circumstances' at the start of the current school year. 

Previously, children were allowed up to ten days grace during term time to go on family holidays, helping parents reduce the cost of the getaway. However, this year all families will be forced to holiday during school breaks, when costs for flights and hotels are higher. 

Several options for dealing with the issue, many of which are the subject of other e-petitions, were debated:

Impose price caps

Although almost 170,000 parents signed the petition calling on the government to regulate prices for holidays, this idea was rejected yesterday. Consumer affairs minister Jenny Willott said price increases during the summer are a reflection of 'market forces in a very competitive sector' rather than 'market abuse'. 

Cut Air Passenger Duty

Another petition launched online has called for a suspension or reduction in the rate of Air Passenger Duty (APD) for the annual school summer-holiday period. However, this was also dismissed, with the Lib Dem MP John Hemming saying it would not help families enjoying staycations in the UK.

Allow absence during term time

Mr Hemming said that 'moving back towards how things were previously [ten days' authorised absence], although not necessarily all the way' might be a solution. However, the education secretary, Michael Gove, is strongly opposed to the idea and said: 'It's wrong to take children out of school ... because it's important that we make sure that children learn'. 

Give schools more flexibility

This leaves the most viable option for reducing costs to parents as the staggering of school holidays to spread the demand for hotels and flights. 'Staggering holiday dates can definitely be done, but it will need co-ordination,' Mr Hemming concluded. ADNFCR-408-ID-801697325-ADNFCR

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