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UK Politics

Father Paul Cookson's Facebook school holidays 'rant' sparks MPs' debate

Mr Cookson's Facebook post on holiday price increases saw thousands sign an online petition to stop travel companies charging more

A father’s impassioned Facebook rant over the price hike for holidays outside of term-time has prompted a MPs' debate on the issue, after more than 160,000 people signed a petition to stop travel companies charging more.

Paul Cookson said he was “sick to death” of being ripped off by travel companies in an initial post entitled "school holiday rant" next to a picture illustrating how Centerparcs had raised its price of a £699 villa by £300 during the school holidays. 

The post quickly went viral and ramped up the number of people signing an existing petition calling for holiday companies to stop charging extra outside of term-time, set up by Donna Thresher, a mother-of-two, in March 2013.

The Commons Backbench Committee has now brought the issue to Westminster Hall for debate on 24 February after the petition reached over 160,000 signatories.

In his initial rant, Mr Cookson wrote: “I am sick to death of being ripped off with this country. I choose not to take my daughter out of school term away on holiday and stick to the set school holidays - but why should I be penalized by doing the correct thing as a parent??? It’s becoming a joke and it's time parents should take a stance to these corporate money grabbing monsters.”

He also set up the Facebook group Holiday Price Increases for parents to share their experiences of holiday prices hiked up during school breaks.

Lid Dem MP, John Hemming, who proposed the debate, told The Independent: "Given that there has not been a debate about this I suggested that I would be willing to initiate one. 

"I had been contacted by people about the wider issue which involves the changes to rules implemented last year. These changes were not debated in the House of Commons or House of Lords. It has been suggested to me that there is now too little discretion for head teachers.

"One case was mentioned which involved a child being refused permission to attend an Aunt's funeral." 

Head teachers are no longer allowed to grant pupils absence outside of school holidays except in “exceptional circumstances”, following a change to the Education Act of 1996.

Previously schools could grant up to 10 term-time days a year for children to go family holidays.

Earlier in January parents Stewart and Natasha Sutherland from Shropshire were ordered to pay £1,000 in costs and fines after they refused to pay an initial £360 fine for taking their children on holiday to the Greek island of Rhodes for seven days in September during term time last year.

The Department for Education has defended the new rules, saying children lost out on "valuable learning time" when they were absent from school, the BBC reported.