Education & Family

Term time holiday ban prices out poor, warns union

Family on beach Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The opportunity for a family holiday should not be the preserve of the middle classes, says the National Union of Teachers

Strict new rules on taking pupils out of school in term time risk making family holidays a middle-class preserve, a teachers' union has warned.

Since 2013 parents in England have faced fines for taking their children out of school in term time.

But holiday prices are higher during school breaks and many poor families are priced out, says the National Union of Teachers.

The government said it was "a myth" that term time holidays were harmless.

Regulations introduced by the former education secretary Michael Gove in September 2013 mean heads are now only able to grant leave in "exceptional circumstances".

'Unfair impact'

Parents who take their children out of school in term time without permission can incur fines of £60 per pupil, per period of absence, rising to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

A motion due to be debated at the NUT's annual conference in Harrogate over Easter, argues that the regulations unfairly impact on working parents, especially the low paid.

It says: "Conference understands that taking children on holiday is not the same as persistent truancy.

"Holidays can provide valuable experiences and outdoor learning opportunities. Giving families time to be on holiday together will also have social and emotional benefits which can be of lasting value and support to schoolchildren."

The motion wants government to put "much greater pressure against holiday companies who unfairly raise their prices at peak times".

Many rostered and shift workers are also "simply unable to arrange annual leave that coincides with the school holidays", it adds.

The union's general secretary, Christine Blower, said the rules meant families without much disposable income "are going to miss out".

"It shouldn't be that the opportunity for a family holiday is the preserve of the middle classes."

Image copyright Christopher Furlong
Image caption The government says regularly missing lessons can harm pupils' chances of getting good qualifications

She said it "can't be right" that families who have less money cannot afford to go on holiday.

"We're not saying that it's fine for children to be out of school at the drop of a hat.

"But a week's holiday can be a very positive thing in a child's life, particularly if they won't otherwise get one and will see their friends going on one."

'Detrimental'

A Department for Education spokesman said evidence had disproved "the myth that pulling a child out of education for holidays is harmless to their education".

"Allowing pupils to regularly miss school can be hugely detrimental to a child's life chances. The most recent annual figures show we are making progress, with 130,000 fewer pupils regularly missing school under this government.

"Heads and teachers are now firmly back in charge of their classrooms thanks to our plan for education, and new flexibility over term dates allows them to set term breaks outside of peak times.

"Parents should never simply discount a possible penalty notice from the cost of a cheaper holiday.

"Taking children out of school without permission for a holiday is a criminal offence, and when doing so parents are risking prosecution which could mean much higher financial penalties and a criminal record."

The ban has drawn opposition from parents, with hundreds of thousands signing petitions against it and local councils in England have called for it to be scrapped .

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