Change school holiday dates to save parents money, says Michael Gove - UK Politics - UK - The Independent

Change school holiday dates to save parents money, says Michael Gove

 

According to the Education Secretary schools should change their term dates to help parents pay a little less for their holidays.

Mr Gove spoke as Parliament was preparing to debate a petition asking “to stop holiday companies charging extra in school holidays.”

An ITV News investigation found East Sussex Council had received nearly £20,000 from under 500 fines issued over the last six months from parents taking their children out of school during term time.

Speaking at the debate in Westminster Hall, Jenny Willott, consumer affairs minister, explained vacation prices are hiked due to high demand during half-term. However as schools are given the option to change the dates of their holiday periods, these may come to drop.

Ms Willott made it clear the coalition would not be taking on a regulatory role over the issue, stating the higher prices were not due to “market abuse” as some had alleged. Instead, she said the prices were a reflection of the current market realities.

Propositions to allow schools to change their half-term dates, and thus make the peak period more flexible, could potentially help in bringing prices down, as the demand would be spread out across a longer length of time.

The debate was brought forward to Parliament following a petition which collected 168,196 signatures on the official government website. The petition was created by Donna Thresher and asked for the current situation of "holiday price hikes" to be assessed.

Schools could be more control over setting their holidays Schools could be more control over setting their holidays  

People have spoken out against “unfairly high” prices during the peak times, however the Government brushed off any allegations that the holiday industry was “cashing in” on the situation and manipulating the market’s offers.

The petition notably demanded a cap on the price increase during school holidays to allow for “guilt-free family time”.

Ms Willott told the debate: "I think the staggering of school holiday periods could indeed lengthen the period of peak demand and it could therefore help bring prices down and I completely understand why people are suggesting as a result the Government should arrange for holiday periods to be spread.

"But at the moment the Government doesn't set term and holiday dates. Currently local authorities set the dates for community and voluntary-controlled schools but academies, free schools and voluntary-aided schools - church schools - set their own dates.

"What the Government is doing is the Deregulation Bill, which is currently before the House, will extend the power to set term dates to all schools by 2015.

"So all schools will be able to set their own dates and be able to vary them.

"So what the Government believes is term dates - (which) have been raised by a number of people today actually - that this is an issue which should be dealt with locally in negotiation and cooperation across an area so that it can take into account the educational needs of the students in the schools and all the practicalities in the school year..."

The minister acknowledged dates would have to be arranged regionally, an issue the bill would look into addressing when it would come to be law.

Concluding, Ms Willott said: "The Government is not convinced higher prices in school holidays are as a result of market abuse by the holiday industry, but rather they reflect the market forces in a very competitive sector, which is also made worse by the fact that we're part of an international competition as well in that market."

Ms Willott said she was "very sympathetic to those who struggle to afford a holiday in peak season", adding that she appreciated the significant differences in price.

On school pupils going on holiday during term time, the minister said it was for headteachers to decide whether the application met the "exceptional circumstances" criteria.

She said: "Just to make it clear, the Government hasn't said that no absence is possible. It has given headteachers the discretion to make that call and we also haven't specified what constitutes exceptional circumstances as we think individual cases need to be considered individually.

"A number of people mentioned the need to trust headteachers and that is exactly what the Government is trying to do to ensure headteachers have the power and the discretion to look at the individual circumstances of a particular application and take that into account."

Read more: Government should spread school holiday dates out to bring travel costs down, say tour operators

Additional reporting by PA

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week