In today’s busy world…family holidays are priceless. They’re an opportunity for parents and kids to escape the routines of daily life and spend some quality time together. But as any parent will tell you, a family getaway can be expensive, especially during the school holidays when prices tend to be much higher.
On average prices rise by 25 to 30 per cent and sometimes – as we show on the Tonight programme at 7.30pm on ITV - even more. Is it any wonder then that some parents prefer to take their holidays during term time to save money?
Head teachers have traditionally been able to use their discretion over requests to take children out of school. But since last September, the Government has been taking a much harder line and making it harder for parents to take their children on holiday during term time. Under the new tougher rules governing unauthorised absences in England, parents can be fined £60 each – for each child that is absent. They can now only take their children out in “exceptional circumstances”. If they take them out WITHOUT permission they could end up with a fine - or even a court appearance.
We hear from Stewart Sutherland from Shropshire, who last September with his wife Natasha took their three children out of school for a holiday to Greece. It was their first holiday together as a family in 5 years due to difficulties getting time off work. They say they DID let the schools know – but they DIDN’T get permission. On their return they were fined £360 and ended up in court where they were ordered to pay almost a thousand pounds including costs.
We meet Paul Cookson who was shocked to discover that the UK break at a holiday village he was wanting to book for his family was £300 more expensive during the 2013 October half term, than both the weeks before and after. He was so frustrated by the price increase that he posted what he describes as a rant on a social networking site. Following an enormous response, Paul formed a campaign group and together with many others signed an online petition to introduce a cap on holiday prices. It was enough to spark a House of Commons debate on the issue.
On the Tonight programme – School’s Out, at 7.30pm on ITV – Fiona Foster meets the parents who are prepared to break the law, asks travel experts why prices increase so much during the school holidays and speaks to educationalists who say poor attendance is damaging and the Government is right to crack down on term time holidays.
We also explore some of the solutions being proposed and get tips from the experts on how to get a good deal for a holiday when the kids are off school.