A parliamentary debate has taken place on how to increase affordability for family holidays out of school term time, with some prices doubling over the February half term.
The parliamentary debate comes after an online petition secured 168,196 signatures, many of which came soon after a Facebook post complaining about price increases for holidays during half term was shared by more than 15,000 people.
Earlier this month we reported on the potential for a debate in parliament as the petition gained in signatures and the discussions on how best to structure the UK’s term times and how to reduce prices became ever more prominent.
Various suggestions have recently been put forward, which include staggering school holidays and suspending air passenger duty during the summer holidays.
However, many of the largest price increases have been seen within the UK. For instance, research has suggested that the price of booking a four night break at Centre Parcs in Sherwood Forest, Nottingham, rises from £329 arriving on Monday March 3rd to £1,049 arriving on Monday February 17th.
For those looking to travel abroad, the cost of staying for one week in a 2-star Benidorm hotel can rise from £615 for a family of four the week before half term, to £1,099 during the half term break.
Price hikes such as these have come in for much criticism from parents, many of whom feel that they are being exploited by travel agents, especially after the introduction of much stricter rules on when a child can be taken out of school by parents.
Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has suggested that encouraging schools to set their own dates for holidays would allow parents to avoid sharp holiday price increases. However, this plan could cause chaos for families with children in different schools, or for some parents who work in schools themselves.
Gove said: “There’s no need to sacrifice your child’s education in order to secure a cheaper holiday. Schools now have the freedom to change their term dates in order to allow students and families the opportunity to go on holiday at different times”.
The model currently encouraged, although not always taken advantage of, by the government differs from the model of many European countries such as France and Germany in that academies, free schools, and voluntary aided schools (church schools) hold the ability to set their own term dates. There is a general consensus that offering more variety in term dates by region for all schools would offer families both matching holiday dates and the opportunity to take advantage of less expensive holiday prices.
Anne Thomson, Head of Travel Law at Your Holiday Claims, commented: “There may be many people who are waiting to see if any changes to term dates will affect the prices of holidays and the times when people travel abroad.
“If we do see further variation in the dates of school holidays, then it is vital that hotels and tour operators are prepared to handle extended busy periods and that the number of those suffering illness and accidents on holiday does not increase”.
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