The great school holiday dilemma: A new ruling could save you thousands, but is it ever OK to take a child abroad in term-time?

  • A petition for schools to authorise term-time breaks has 176,000 signatures
  • Jon Platt successfully fought a 120 fine for taking his child out of school
  • Dame Sally Coates said term breaks show a ‘lack of respect’ for education

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Few would contest that travel stretches the horizons of young minds. Stomping around a medieval fort, ordering your gelato in a new language or kayaking past a glistening waterfall are the kind of learning experiences the classroom simply can t conjure up. The argument for plotting such adventures during school term-time, when prices can often be up to 70 per cent cheaper, has gathered fresh momentum.

Excitement: Families love going abroad, but there are calls for schools to stagger their holidays

A petition, started by Nottingham father Dave Hedley, calling for schools to authorise such breaks, has already attracted 176,000 signatures and will be discussed in Parliament in July. It comes in the wake of a surprising High Court ruling earlier this month. Isle of Wight dad Jon Platt successfully challenged his local council over a 120 chastisement for taking his six-year-old daughter to Florida.

After proving his child had met the necessary requirements in attending school regularly , the 44-year-old company director walked from court triumphant, having toppled Goliath on the small print. Where that leaves us now is unclear. Increasingly vocal parents say they ll happily soak up the standard 60 penalty, given that it s often small change compared with the huge discounts for travelling

Can a fortnight on Mallorca in the last weeks of the summer term be that detrimental to an ordinarily diligent student?

Well, yes, according to superhead Dame Sally Coates, who says she s totally against the latest ruling.

It s not about the one middle-class parent who takes their child out of school because, in the grand scheme of things, those missed weeks are probably not going to affect that child education s much.

But what I do have a problem with is that it really says something about the way parents view education.

‘It shows a lack of respect for it and there has to be a clear message that education matters. Coates concedes that the law needs to be made clear with the term regularly offering a get-out clause for truancy. The issue of respect doesn t seem to wash with a band of increasingly vocal parents who say they ll happily soak up the standard 60 penalty, given that it s often small change compared with the huge discounts for travelling when the more conscientious won t.

Almost across the board, from a stay at Center Parcs to skiing in February s half-term, prices leap as the calendar flicks into school Discount Holidays © holiday dates. Abta says the way to keep parents, teachers and operators happy is to restructure the school holidays, spreading out the breaks by region across the year

The price hikes are a simple case of supply and demand, says Sean Tipton, of Abta.

I ve spoken to UK hoteliers recently who say they have no choice, but to over-inflate prices because the opportunity for profit is so small at other times of the year. Abta says the way to keep parents, teachers and operators happy is to restructure the school holidays, spreading out the breaks by region across the year.

We fully understand parents concerns about pricing but until a staggered system of school holidays is introduced, it s always going to be a case of supply and demand, Tipton adds.

The six-week break was originally set up so children could help their families with the harvest it s an antiquated system. Many countries on the continent follow a staggered solution and we should do the same here.

WHAT IT COSTS IN AND OUT OF THE HOLIDAYS

Here s what a range of popular holidays will cost you during the peak months of July and August, plus the brow-raising savings to be made on identical breaks during term-time.

Tuscan thriller villa

What: On the border between Tuscany and Umbria, Il Molino sleeps eight and has its own pool, cvvillas.com1

School holidays: Book the villa for August 20 and pay 4,149 for a week. Term-time: On September 24, Il Molino costs 1,891 a week. Off-peak gain: 2,258.

In hot demand: During school holidays in August, families can pay thousands to fly to Orlando and visit the Walt Disney World

Florida funshine

What: The Radisson Resort Orlando is only five minutes drive from Walt Disney World. Virgin Holidays offers week-long packages for a family of four including flights, room-only accommodation and car hire, virginholidays.co.uk2

School holidays: Stay from August 13 for 6,135. Term-time: Arrive on June 18 and pay 3,720.

Off-peak gain: 2,415 per family.

Family skiing

What: Two adults, two children staying at the Chalet Hotel Christina in La Plagne with flights, transfers and half-board accommodation, markwarner.co.uk3

School holidays: February half-term prices for 2017 are 1,479 pp. Term-time: Travel on January 15 and you ll pay just 644 pp. Off-peak gain: 835 pp.

During February half-term, families can fork out large amounts to go skiing, but the saving can be 835 pp if you book during term-time

Fluctuating flights

What: Fly BA from London Gatwick to Ibiza ba.com4. School holidays: A return ticket costs 352.82 pp on July 29. Term-time: The same flight on September 20 costs 140.82.

Off-peak gain: 212 pp.

Bonjour to France

What: The ferry from Portsmouth to Caen puts Brittany on your doorstep. The prices below include a car crossing with four people and a cabin onboard, brittany-ferries.co.uk5

School holidays: Sail on August 13 and return a week later for 921. Term-time: The same crossing on September 13 returning a week later costs 550. Off-peak gain: 371.

Center Parcs promises activities galore, and you can save 1,180 per family by going off-peak

Center Parcs Treat

What: Center Parcs promises activities galore. A typical stay might be a week in a lodge at Woburn, centerparcs.co.uk6

School holidays: On August 1, a family of four will be paying 2,128. Term-time: The same lodge can be booked on September 30 for 948.

Off-peak gain: 1,180 per family.

Spanish Eurocamp

What: Eurocamp has three-bedroom Discount Holidays © holiday homes throughout the continent. At the Vilanova Park on the Costa Dorada, the villa sleeps two adults and two children, eurocamp.co.uk7

School holidays: A week from August 4 costs 1,819 per family. Term-time: Stay from September 17 and pay 254 per family.

Off-peak gain: 1,565 per family.

References

  1. ^ cvvillas.com (cvvillas.com)
  2. ^ virginholidays.co.uk (virginholidays.co.uk)
  3. ^ markwarner.co.uk (markwarner.co.uk)
  4. ^ ba.com (ba.com)
  5. ^ brittany-ferries.co.uk (brittany-ferries.co.uk)
  6. ^ centerparcs.co.uk (centerparcs.co.uk)
  7. ^ eurocamp.co.uk (eurocamp.co.uk)

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