A frustrated father who posted an angry rant on Facebook about school holiday prices has struck a chord with parents across the nation.
Paul Cookson had only 250 friends on Facebook when he posted the ‘SCHOOL HOLIDAY RANT’ but his 100 words of outrage were shared nearly 150,000 times.
Next to a picture showing how Centerparcs raised its price of a £699 villa by £300 during the school holidays, 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..”
The post was shared thousands of times and before long, mum-of-two Donna Thresher was inspired to set up a government e-petition calling for holiday companies to stop charging extra outside of term time. Now it has reached over 100,000 signatures it is eligible to be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee.
Mr Cookson also set up a group on Facebook to allow parents to share their holiday price increases and boycott companies who they feel unfairly penalise them for having children. Peter Higgins, a self-employed father of four runs the Facebook group Holiday Price Increases along with Mrs Thresher and Mr Cookson. He told The Independent: “These increases have got more out of control than they ever have and they’ve slipped under the radar. Realistically what I’d like to see is companies coming together to discuss these issues with the group. At the moment they are hiding behind supply and demand but really it’s greed. Ideally we’d like government legislation to cap these price increases. Families are scared at this new legislation meaning they can’t take holidays in term time. They want a break but they don’t have the money to take it in school holidays.”
Parents are not allowed to take the children out of school during term time unless there are “exceptional circumstances.” following regulations that came into force last September. Previously schools could grant up to 10 term-time days a year for children to go family holidays
Earlier in January Stewart and Natasha Sutherland were ordered by magistrates to pay £1000 in costs after taking their two children out of school for a holiday in Greece. They had refused to pay the original £360 fine. At the time he said: “We haven’t been able to get leave in the school holidays at the same time for five years and we desperately needed a family break.
“I know how important education is but family time is important, too. The children’s behaviour and schooling has improved massively since our holiday.”
Justine Roberts, CEO of Mumsnet told The Independent: "With the introduction of fines for taking children out of school during term-time combined with sky-high travel costs it feels like a lose-lose situation for parents. Three quarters of our users think holiday companies are exploiting parents who have no other choice about the dates they travel. Obviously it's hard to refute the laws of supply and demand but equally looking at it from a cost plus basis, holiday companies seem to be happily making extraordinary profits out of families and not surprisingly many feel they are being ripped off as a result."
The Association of British Travel Agents defended raising prices during school holidays, telling the BBC it was a simple issue of “supply and demand.” They said that a potential solution would be to stagger holiday dates so that all the schools didn’t break at the same time. However teachers are against this, saying it would cause chaos in the classrooms.
"Staggering school holidays will make it difficult for families to take holidays at the same time if different areas or even schools in the same town are breaking at ad hoc times. While it is obviously a problem that holiday companies hike up their prices during the school holiday period they could of course simply charge more for a longer period of time. "
Center Parcs told The Independent: "Our pricing reflects the seasonality of the supply and demand for our breaks. We reduce our prices significantly during off peak periods to reflect the lower demand at these times.
"It is also worth noting that the success of our business relies upon us re-investing millions of pounds each year into our Villages, in order to maintain the high quality short break experience with which we have become synonymous."