Brighton Council Proposes New School Term Dates, But Will It Actually Lead To Cheaper Family Holidays?

Brighton Proposes New School Term Dates, But Will It Actually Lead To Cheaper Family Holidays?

A local council is debating plans to overhaul school term dates to allow parents to book cheaper family holidays.

Brighton and Hove City Council is considering reducing the six-week summer holiday by a week and instead scheduling an extra holiday in the autumn term.

Another proposal that will be discussed by councillors is to group all the school inset days into one block, to create a holiday break during what is currently term time.

Tom Bewick, the chair of Brighton and Hove’s children, young people and skills committee, told The Guardian: “If the initial reaction to a change in the holiday pattern is positive, we will develop a detailed proposal which we will then formally consult on. I will be very interested to hear schools’, parents’ and children’s views on this issue.”

Siobhan Freegard, founder of Channel Mum, welcomed the council's plan for a discussion, but cautions that the proposals won't necessarily lead to cheaper family holidays.

“Brighton and Hove have set a precedent in thinking creatively to help parents," she told HuffPost UK Parents.

"Although their plans - such as the school lottery - aren’t always popular, it’s positive to see bureaucrats attempt to help local families rather than waiting for direction from Westminster.

“However the problem with this plan is that travel firms will simply get wise to the extra week and hike up the prices. It has the potential to cause more disruption for parents and employers without actually allowing more families to afford a holiday.“

Anne-Marie O'Leary, Netmums editor in chief adds:

"Netmums expects Brighton’s suggestion to be welcomed by lots of families. Some parents have been forced to take their children out of school during term times to avoid the high costs of taking a family holiday during school holidays, but some have been penalised for doing so.

"The vast majority of parents care greatly about their children's schooling and the current system of fines and 'unauthorised absence' discourages positive relationships between schools and parents.

"Some flexibility on term-time holiday dates would be encouraged by parents and councils working more closely with schools to find a more manageable solution would be a positive move.

"This is a topic that has been widely discussed in Netmums' Coffeehouse forum and there is a general consensus that a return to the pre-2013 position where headteachers could exercise discretion on up to 10 school days missed per year would be welcomed."

Term dates and holidays are also hot topics on Mumsnet according to CEO Justine Roberts:

'Everyone agrees that the cost of travel during school holidays is a nightmare - and given the mass exodus, it's also pretty difficult to get a relaxed, quiet break even after you've re-mortgaged to pay for it," said Roberts.

"So lots of Mumsnet users are cautiously optimistic about this idea, citing areas like Lancashire that seem to have done it successfully in the past.'

Following a government crackdown on term time absences in 2013, parents who take children out of school without permission can be issued with a £60 fine per child, rising to £120 if it is not paid within 21 days. If the fine is not paid after 28 days it will be claimed through reductions in child benefit.

Those who fail to pay can face prosecution.

However, according to a survey published last June by the Nationwide Building Society, these sanctions have not reduced the number of parents booking term time holidays.

The study of 2,000 parents of children aged between five and 16, found that the number of mums and dads taking kids on these holidays has risen from three in ten the previous year, to four in ten.

Brighton and Hove City Council will discuss the proposed changes to term dates on Monday 11 January and according to Anastasia de Waal, chair of Family Lives they will have a lot to debate.

"There are some potential pitfalls," she told HuffPost UK Parents.

"The obvious one is that if you are a parent with children at two different schools in the area and one of the schools alters its term dates but the other doesn't, then you may end up with more problems booking holidays than you have now.

"The second thing to consider is the impact on teachers. They may be in a similar position, if they have children in a different school to the one they teach in, their holidays could end up being at different times.

"The main point is it's important to have a discussion about term dates, because they are really quite inflexible at the moment.

"The way the school year is organised is currently based on what's always been done, rather than what's suitable for now. So I think it's really good to discuss it.

"But I would like to see the discussion happening on a national scale, as it's importnat to think about all the possible disadvantages and ultimately is this change going to have the aimed effect, which is to make parents and children have more opportunities to take holidays that aren't excruciatingly expensive."