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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 16:33 GMT
Scheme to cut term-time holidays
holidaymakers on beach
The government is cracking down on term-time holidaymakers
A much-publicised scheme to stop families in England going on holiday in term-time has finally begun.

The initiative, Every Lesson Counts, is organised by the Department for Education and Skills and the Association of British Travel Agents.

It offers discounts, free child places and early booking deals for families.

It is hoped the scheme will help reduce current estimates that one in six truants on a given day is away with their parents on a family holiday.

Many major holiday companies, such as Thomas Cook, Airtours, BA Holidays, Virgin Holidays, and the Co-operative Group, are taking part in the Every Lesson Counts scheme.

Offers in a trial last year included a guaranteed free child place per booking, 50% discounts for up to two children sharing with two adults and 400 off holidays in Florida and California.

The government also plans to expand its Fast Track to Attendance programme, targeting more than 10,000 "serial truants".

It is estimated these truants account for one in five of all instances of truancy across the country.

Their parents face a penalty notice or court prosecution unless their child's attendance improves.

'Excellent opportunity'

Schools Minister Jacqui Smith said: "Taking a holiday during term-time can mean that children miss important school time and coursework.

"A term-time holiday is all too often seen as the rule, when it should be the exception," she said.

"I am pleased to have the support of the travel industry in encouraging parents to book early for the school holiday periods, so that they can take a break without disrupting their children's education."

Keith Betton, head of corporate affairs at the Association of British Travel Agents, said: "We are pleased to be working with the Department for Education and Skills on this important campaign.

"Although holidays bought in the UK are some of the most competitively priced in the world, supply and demand can lead to price difference in periods of peak demand.

"This campaign gives families an excellent opportunity to plan and book early to keep holiday costs down."

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