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Majority of parents back holiday price caps - new ITV poll

Published: Thu 10 Apr 2014

Majority of parents back holiday price caps - new ITV poll
More than half of parents say inflated holiday prices should be capped so they are not forced to take their children out of school for cheaper getaways, a new survey for ITV reveals.
The new OnePoll survey undertaken for the Tonight programme shows four in ten parents have taken their children out of school for holidays during term, and almost half of them said it was because booking then is cheaper.
A total of 1,000 parents of school-age children were asked about their holidays after recent rule changes by the Department for Education made it more difficult for them to take youngsters out of school during term, with parents facing £60 fines.
The results of the poll are shown in School’s Out: Tonight, which airs tonight (Thursday April 10) at 7.30pm.
It found:
More than half of parents surveyed (53 per cent) believed travel companies should be forced to cap their holiday prices.
Three-quarters (75 per cent) of the parents surveyed believed that travel firms were taking advantage of them by inflating prices during school holidays.
A total of 44 per cent of parents have taken their children out of school for holidays during term time. Of those, 48 per cent did so because it was cheaper than to book holidays after school had broken up.
Two-fifths of all the parents surveyed - 22 per cent - had been fined for removing their child from school for a holiday.
A quarter (25 per cent) of those surveyed admitted they had lied once to a school in order to take their children on holiday during term time, and one in nine (11 per cent) said they had done it several times.
Of those who had lied, 44 per cent pretended their child was sick - other popular excuses included family weddings (26 per cent) or visiting sick relatives (20 per cent).
Half of parents surveyed (50 per cent) said they didn’t believe the current £60 fine for taking a child out of school in term time was a sufficient deterrent.
More than half (53 per cent) believe taking their children out of school during term time has no effect on their education.
Tonight reporter Fiona Foster discovered a stark difference between holiday prices during term time and after break-up by going online. She found a seven-night holiday for a family of four in the Algarve costing £3,124 during the Easter holidays. Booked for two weeks later, the same holiday would cost just £964.
Paul Cookson, father to six-year-old Phoebe, was outraged after deciding to take his family on a half-term holiday to Center Parcs in Nottinghamshire. When he checked prices he discovered that the price during half term of just under £1,000 would have been £300 cheaper either side of the break.
He started a campaign to introduce a cap on holiday prices, and says: “It’s not that I couldn’t afford to pay it I just thought they’re just not having my money, ultimately they’re not having it and you know people do have to vote with their feet in a way. It’s like look what you could have won, if you didn’t have kids look what you could have won and just seeing that price difference just struck a nerve with me.”
In response, the holiday firm says: “Center Parcs’ 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.”
This Easter Amanda Moss, husband Simon and their six children are going to Israel for their son’s Bar Mitzvah. They’ve been granted permission to take their children out of school for nine days – but because of the Government crackdown, Amanda is worried that next time the school won’t take such a lenient view. By taking term-time holiday, the family has saved about £2,000. Amanda says:
“What they’re going to gain from this is emotional development which is just as important as academic achievement so I’d take them out again and again because it’s important to have quality time together.”
“There’s a severe case of ripping off going on because holiday companies it’s like the lottery they just pluck a number out of the sky and think, ‘Oh I tell you what, I’m going to charge that this week.’”
Stewart Sutherland took his three children out of school during term for a family holiday in Rhodes - but didn’t get permission from their schools. When he got back, he and his wife Natasha were fined £360. He refused to pay and ended up in court, where the fine doubled and eventually he was ordered to pay just under £1,000 including costs by magistrates. Yet he says he couldn’t get any other time off from his job, and believes there are many others like him.
“There’s no leeway, there’s no understanding, there are parents up and down the country who are in the same boat as me, if you can’t get the time off then you’re not allowed a holiday anymore.”
Yet some education experts agree with the Government’s stance - including Chris McGovern from the Campaign for Real Education. He says:
“We all want to have holidays, we all want to do lots of things but we can’t always do them and at the end of the day we have a law and at the moment parents who take their children out of school are committing a criminal offence.”
Yet some schools take a more lenient approach to term time holidays. Headteacher Jenny Davies, from Westborough School in Westcliffe on Sea, says she has never fined a parent:
“It is unrealistic to assume that families never need to take any time out of school other than in the holiday which are very prescriptive.  Every child has twelve weeks holiday in the state system but not everything a family needs to do can happen in those twelve specific weeks.”
Notes to Editors
This material is for immediate release.
The full OnePoll survey, undertaken in March, is attached to this email.
Any use of the material from this programme for print, online or broadcast must credit School’s Out: Tonight, 7.30pm tonight on ITV.