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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
Parents 'forced' to holiday in term-time
Many parents are taking their children out of school to go on holiday because it is so much cheaper than taking trips in the school holidays, research suggests.

A survey of 5,863 adults in the UK for the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph found 38% of parents had taken their children out of school to go away on holiday.


It's extortionate, they think they've got people held to ransom and, of course, some are

Suzi Synowiec, mother of two
A total of 57% felt school holidays should be staggered to help parents avoid expensive travel.

One major travel agent offers seven nights in Majorca for a family of four at just under 2,000 in the week before the impending half-term, but that goes up by over 500 for departure on 20 October.

'Penalised'

Mother of two Suzi Synowiec has taken her children out of school to going skiing for the past three years - and plans to do the same this coming January.

While holidaying out of season provides the family with a chance to avoid the crowds on the slopes, the main motivator is cost.

Sample skiing prices
February 2 - 499
February 9 - 639
February 16 - 669
February 23 - 549

2002 skiing in Meribel, French Alps
"People are hugely penalised for travelling in the holidays, it's dreadful.

"Holiday companies know a lot of people travel then, so they put the prices up.

"It's extortionate, they think they've got people held to ransom and, of course, some are," she said.

Sample summer holiday prices
August 22 - 589
August 29 - 549
September 5 - 519
September 12 - 499

2001 holiday in Kos, Greece
But while taking Alex, 8, and Daniel, 6, out of class for a week is an option now, their mother does not think it will be an option in later years.

"At the age they are now, I don't believe their education will suffer inordinately, but as they get older and go into secondary school, then it would count against them in terms of their results."

Ms Synowiec believes one way to solve the problem would be to stagger school holidays or introduce a five-term year.

Market forces

But the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said holiday companies were simply responding to market forces.


We have no legal powers to fix holiday price setting

Department for Education
"The whole industry works on a demand basis - our members work with hoteliers and airlines and if demand goes up, so do prices," a spokeswoman for Abta said.

The travel editor for the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph, Graham Boynton, said the research highlighted the growing trend for parents to worry less about keeping their children in school at all costs.

"Whether they object to the premium prices for peak season breaks, want to beat the rush, or simply want their children to see the world as part of a wider education that goes beyond the national curriculum, 21st century parents clearly view travel as a vital and integral part of family life."

Government guidelines

By law, parents are allowed to take their children out of school for up to ten days in any one school year.

Schools can agree to more time being taken if the circumstances are considered exceptional.

The Department for Education said it was aware that the increasing tendency to take family holidays during term-time interrupted the continuity of learning.

"The government recognises that 'cheaper holidays' within term time is a major factor when parents decide to book holidays," said a department spokeswoman.

"We have had discussions with Abta to look at the scope of addressing the large difference in off-peak and peak holiday prices.

"Discussions are on-going, but we have no legal powers to fix holiday price setting," she said.

Parental responsibility

The National Assoication of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) blames parents.

The union's general secretary, Nigel de Gruchy said: "There can be no blaming schools for this kind of truancy.

"These 'tourist truants' are organised by the parents themselves.

"It also confirms my view that parents are the major cause of other forms of truancy, although they may often be the victims of the unscrupulous and greedy practices of the private sector travel and airline companies which promote 'family holidays' to be taken during the normal school term.

The union says employers and service providers such as tour operators should do more to show commitment to the education of the nation's children.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Navdip Dhariwal
"Parents accuse the travel industry of hiking up their prices"
See also:

04 Jan 99 | Education
School's out for Blair's children
02 Sep 01 | Education
Children suffering 'September-itis'
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