14/08/2014 16:58 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Headteachers Can Stagger School Term Times To Avoid Holiday Price Hikes


Parent power has forced the Government to step into the debate about sky-high holiday costs during school breaks.

Following a petition signed by 170,000 people calling for an end to rip-off price hikes, Downing Street has told head teachers they can change term dates to help families shop around.

David Cameron's official spokesman said: "We understand the cost pressures that hardworking families can face.

"I think the right thing is for schools to have the freedom to set their own term dates in conjunction with parents." Travel firms routinely raise prices by up to £600 during school holidays, which led Essex mum Donna Thresher to set up the e-petition: "Stop Holiday companies charging extra in school holidays."

It gathered more than 100,000 signatures, which meant the issue had to be debated in Parliament yesterday.

Her petition states: "
Family time is so much more essential in the current working world, but so many people cannot afford holidays in school holidays. A break at home is not the same as getting away from it all where there isn't any house work or DIY to get done, instead focus is on family.

"It's time to stop the holiday companies cashing in on school holidays and let parents have some guilt free family time! Enforce action that caps the percentage increase on holiday prices in school holidays."

During yesterday's debate, even Education Secretary Michael Gove appeared to support parents - despite the fact that he was the minister
who brought in rules last year making it harder for parents to take their children out of school.

He said: "It's unfair holiday companies attempt to fleece parents. We've made it easier to allow schools to vary holidays... to ensure parents have an opportunity to take holiday at an off-peak time."

He said that parents should lobby their schools to change their term dates to allow pupils to go on holiday at different times, as the coalition Government has given them the ability to do.

And he said that the holiday industry should 'look at itself in the mirror' and ask whether it was doing enough to help its customers.

Mr Gove said: ''It's wrong to take children out of school when they should be at school because it's important that we make sure that children learn.

''If we are worried about people being hard-pressed and facing economic tough times, the answer to that is to make sure that our country as a whole is better educated and more competitive, and it doesn't help anyone if you take your children out of school during term time.''

A survey for ITV News found just 13 per cent of adults thought travel prices during school holidays were fair.

The Department for Business insisted firms have to make more during peak times to cover quieter months.

Its response to the petitioners states: "In a competitive market it is for business to decide the market worth of their products and to price accordingly. In the holiday market there is fierce competition for custom.

"Prices rises in peak periods are a reflection of the international competition holiday companies face for hotel accommodation and other services in destinations which are popular with consumers from many other countries and where there are limits to capacity. These consumers also wish to holiday during these peak periods.

"We are advised also that holiday companies must seek to make a reasonable profit during the peak periods so that they are able to operate throughout the year when demand and therefore prices and profits are lower."

Will you take a term time holiday to avoid cost hikes, despite the fines?