A pioneering scheme being considered by one council could mean the end to parents paying out for expensive family holidays during pupils’ long summer breaks and instead enjoy a cheap week away together.
Brighton and Hove City Council is considering overhauling school holiday dates to help families avoid the steep rise in the cost of breaks during the summer months and if the scheme gets the go-ahead it could pave the way for North West councils to follow suit.
It’s time to take a fresh look at this and try and find a consensus for what works best for families in the 21st centuryCouncillor
The move comes after the Government cracked down on “unauthorised absences” from schools, telling headteachers they can no longer let children go away in term time.
Families could take advantage of cheaper holidays if plans to cut the six-week school summer break to four weeks go ahead as councillors in Brighton consider creating a ‘standalone’ week’s holiday when going away is less expensive.
Inset days could also be moved into a block to create a long weekend or week’s break when holidays are less expensive.
If approved, the Brighton proposal could pave the way for other authorities to follow suit – although each council would have to pick a different week in order for the system to work.
In September 2013, new rules stated the 10 days’ discretionary absence teachers used to be able to apply in ‘special circumstances’ must now only be applied in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
Unauthorised absences should be referred to the authority’s Education Investigation Service, with possible warnings and fines.
Councillors in Brighton have said they are looking at the changes to help poorer families, with one saying: “The long summer holiday goes back to the 19th century when children helped bring in the harvest. It’s time to take a fresh look at this and try and find a consensus for what works best for families in the 21st century.”
Last October, the Press Association discovered the number of fines given to parents for taking their children on holiday in term time has almost trebled in two years. In the last academic year alone, at least 50,414 penalty notices were issued due to children being taken out of lessons for trips.
Taking children out of school without permission could incur a £60 fine per child, rising to £120 if it is not paid within 21 days. There’s a maximum fine of £2,500 and possible three-month jail terem for anyone who refuses to pay up.
Recent guidance by the National Association of Head Teachers said exceptions could be made for funerals, weddings and religious events, but family holidays were unlikely to match the criterion.