Schools to change term dates to allow families to take cheaper holidays

More than 60,000 families have been fined by councils

Families with school-age children could get cheaper holidays thanks to a high majority of headteachers planning to immediately use new powers to change term dates to allow off-peak travel.

The development follows a long-running campaign by parents demanding the right to take their children out of school for term-time breaks.

The issue of term-time holidays has been contentious ever since the Government banned headteachers from allowing pupils to skip classes.

Holidays are around 40 per cent more expensive during school holidays, and headteachers previously had the power to allow up to 10 days of term-time holiday. But a change to that rule in September 2013 resulted in a number of high-profile cases of parents controversially being fined or taken to court for attending family weddings or funerals.

More than 60,000 families have been fined by councils for taking children out of school without approval and dozens of parents have been convicted by magistrates’ courts after refusing to pay penalty charges of £60 per child, rising to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

From this September, however, headteachers will have the power to set  holiday schedules – and a new study by The Boston Consulting Group suggests that almost 70 per cent of head teachers intend to make immediate changes to holiday schedules.

More than 60 per cent said they will consider changes to allow families to enjoy more affordable holidays and because it will help match school holidays to religious and cultural holidays and festivals.

Heads who planned changes were most likely to be considering introducing shorter, more-frequent holidays, but the survey found no consistent proposals, suggesting that holiday schedules will vary across the country.

Stephane Baleston of BCG said that staggered school holidays could result in better deals for families: “The market will shift as schools adjust their schedules, and travel operators will likely contend with shorter peak periods when school holidays coincide.”

A spokeswoman for the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) said: “The reason prices rise during school holidays and other busy periods is due to supply and demand. ABTA believes that a potential solution... is for education stakeholders to  look at staggering the dates that schools  take their holidays by region, thus allowing demand to be spread over a longer period.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said the reforms would enable headteachers to set term dates that worked best for local families. But she added: “Evidence shows allowing pupils to regularly miss school can be hugely detrimental to a child’s education. The most recent figures show we are making progress, with 130,000 fewer pupils regularly missing school under this government.”

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