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
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower