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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reception Manager

£18750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Hotel in Chadderton is a popular ch...

Recruitment Genius: Designer

£32969 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Engineer

£35000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Data Engineer is required to ...

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence