School holidays should be staggered lets #ChangeSchoolTermDates

When you have school-aged children one of the things parents dread the most is being restricted by school term dates. It’s been a known issue for years that travel operators bump up the prices of their holidays outside of term time because they know that parents have their hands tied.

From 2013, the government has been clamping down on school absences with many schools imposing fines for parents who to take their children out of school. Since 2014, there have been over sixty thousand fines for term-time holidays. The government’s stance is that term-time holidays impact upon pupils’ learning. However, some very interesting research from TES (Times Education Supplement) suggests that this is not the case and that it has little bearing on primary school children’s attainment at all.

Interesting.

As a parent, I go by the general rule of thumb that we know how to look out for our children and have their best interests at heart. We wouldn’t be looking to take them out of school for weeks on end. And sometimes, you have to weigh up what the children will actually gain from the opportunity to travel (affordably) and spend quality time with their family as opposed to being in the classroom.

Families are tired of facing excessive price hikes year after year but TimeAway, a new family travel startup is campaigning for schools to stagger their term dates. This would mean that demand is spread across more weeks and would allow families (like mine) to be able to have access to more affordable holidays.

children on holiday

As an example, an all-inclusive holiday, flying from London Gatwick to Gran Canaria Spain staying at a 4* hotel would cost a family of four just under £3000 in the summer holidays. The same holiday in term-time costs just under £1700 – that’s a huge 40% difference in price!

Staggering school holidays is a real no-brainer and is not a new concept. It’s already an established practice in many European countries, proving that our current system needs to change. Fining parents is not the answer.

Jon Platt won his appeal against term-time holidays fines in a landmark High Court ruling last year. Following on from this media coverage, TimeAway interviewed hundreds of parents, teachers and leaders in travel and education to see if they could find a solution. The results found that staggering school holidays garnered the most support.

children swimming

As parents, I think we should 100% get behind this campaign and do all we can to get the word out. The more parents that sign up, the better chance we have to make a difference.

The campaign aims to connect parents and schools, empowering them to make a positive change.

How you can help

Please join me in creating a real buzz about this. Firstly, head over to TimeAway to join the campaign, secondly, use the hashtag #ChangeSchoolTermDates to create awareness of this campaign. And last but not least – spread the word to all your friends and family and ask them to join the campaign too!

After all, the educational benefits of holidays along with the importance of quality family time should most definitely not be undervalued.

*This is a collaborative post in association with TimeAway

mother and child on holiday

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52 Comments

  1. Interesting idea…I guess for exams and state wide testing it might cause problems.#KALCOLS
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  2. Cygnet hasn’t started school yet, so we always go on holiday in term time. I would probably take Cygnet out of school and pay the fine – it is cheaper than paying the higher price for a holiday. I can see that schools wouldn’t want all of their pupils going on holiday at exam time, but there must be parts of the school year in which they can be more flexible. thanks for your post. Pen x #KCACOLS
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  3. Sounds like a fantastic idea! I guess there are always going to be core holidays like Christmas and maybe Easter, and core times when holidays couldn’t be taken, around exams, but other than that each county could easily set their own holiday timetable! #KCACOLS

  4. I think some staggering of school holidays around the country would help but it shouldn’t be completely flexible as this would make the teachers job much more challenging than it already is. I know that our area already has different holiday dates from the neighbouring area which causes a headache for parents who are also teachers in the neighbouring area’s schools! #KCACOLS

  5. I think this is a great idea! It drives me mad that holidays are double the price in the school holidays, it just doesn’t seem fair. I agree that is may be problematic for teachers though. #kcacols

  6. As a holiday provider I am with you all the way, even at the inflated prices you mention I can sell school holidays over and over but struggle to sell term time discounted as my family market can’t come! I’d love to have a more even price structure and be fully booked all year. #KCACOLS

  7. So interesting that you can get fined for taking your kids out of school for a holiday. In Canada it isn’t quite as strict so we don’t have the same issue. Travelling during school breaks is still way more expensive than when kids are at school though. #kcacols
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  8. WOW! I had no idea about the price hikes!!! We don’t tend to travel and when we do we always go outside school dates because we homeschool so we know it’ll be quieter. Hope they make some headway with this initiative!!! Thanks for sharing #KCACOLS
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  9. Now quite sure how I feel about it- I can see both pros and cons. That said I am always up for a little vaca!

    #KCACOLS

  10. I’m not sure about staggering dates as we already have problems with connecting counties having slightly different dates and trying to arrange time away with my parents who both work in schools has been a nightmare. I think the best solution is that parents should be allowed to take their kids out for a maximum of two weeks within the school year (whether taken all at once or split up) as long as it doesn’t impact exams and the build up to them. For older kids they could even be given coursework to take away with them if they are so concerned about what is being missed. One thing is for sure though, something needs to change x
    #KCACOLS
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    • I agree with Alana, when my Mum (who works in a school) has different dates to my girls it causes us issues and also as there will always be set dates in the calendar like Christmas, Easter, Bank Holidays and Exams I don’t know if changing dates would be too feasible. But I think the way that schools approach attendance in general needs to change and children shouldn’t be punished for not having 100% attendance. My eldest is in nursery which isn’t even compulsory although it is within a primary, yet I was called up on her attendance at parent’s evening, even though absences were all due to illness! I think each student should get a quota of time off/absence allowed each school year.

  11. It is so frustrating how much prices go up in the holidays. Leo starts school in September so our days of holidaying in term time are limited. This campaign sounds like a good idea but what if it backfires and travel companies just up their prices all year round?xx #kcacols

  12. I absolutely think holidays should be staggered or there should be some allowance to take kids out in term time as school holiday prices are ridiculous!! Thanks for hosting #kcacols
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  13. The price hikes are disgusting and I can’t help but think that we should be tackling the companies that do it, not the schools? Staggering seems like a good idea in theory but actually would cause no end of problems too. Siblings in different schools having different holidays? Teachers having different holidays to their own children? Or indeed anybody else that works in a school from dinner ladies to admin? Term times no longer fixed? Where would exams – SATs, GCSEs, A levels – fit in? The only ‘down side’ that I can see to the current system is that parents are being hit in the wallet. Staggered holidays would mean turning the whole education system upside down. Whilst I agree that something should be done, I’m not convinced that this is it. I can’t help but think that things worked perfectly fine when permission was left at the discretion of the head teacher actually.

  14. I think this is a good idea in theory, but would be interested to see how easily it would actually work in practice. It is really shocking though, how much prices go up in the school holidays. x #KCACOLS
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  15. I think that this is a fantastic idea. My little lady is not of school as just yet, but I’m sure my opinion will not change in a couple of year. Great post. #KCACOLS
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  16. I don’t think fining the parents is a solution for what they are doing. If the price difference for a vacation is that big, it is even worth paying the fine. I hope the campaign will help!
    #kcacols
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  17. Great campaign – I’m not 100% sure if it would help reduce the cost as it could just make the more expensive period longer but I do think something needs to be done about it. You can’t really blame the holiday companies for following supply and demand and I believe that, when done responsibly, taking children out of school can work but it’s not ideal! Atleast this sounds like a sensible step in the right direction. #kcacols
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  18. It sounds like a good idea to reduce the costs. But it depends how they stagger the holidays, as we live on the border of two counties and our primary school is in a different county to the secondary school, so potentially when my girls are older they could have different school holidays. Its a difficult one to find a solution that suits all. But I thing something needs to be done to help parents. Maybe if every parent could take their child out of school for 1 week without being fined could help x #KCACOLS
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  19. We live in France and the school holidays across the country are staggered. Every six weeks the kids have a school holiday and an eight-week summer holiday. It makes sense to stagger these. Let’s face it when it’s ski season in February you can’t have the whole of France pitching up to the Alps, it would be chaos! Works here! #KCACOLS

  20. This is such an important point to highlight, thanks so much for writing about it!
    It isn’t fair and I’m absolutely certain kids gain more from a holiday reboot than a week of school! I know I did! #KCACOLS

  21. Being a bargain-hunter, I get so cross about the inflated holiday prices during school holidays. I agree with you, Maria. We know what’s best for our children and, of course, we care about their education but I don’t believe its a big deal to take them out of school for one/2 weeks in the year in primary school. Staggering term times may help but I do worry about the impact it could have for those parents who teach and may find they have different holidays to their kids. #KCACOLS
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  22. Sounds like a great idea and i totally agree. Although my girls are not at school yet I can see and hear about how this causes problems for families trying to get away so hope a change is made soon! #KCACOLS

  23. I do get that this would definitely help bring prices down but I’m not sure how it would work with children at different schools. I also work at a school and it is therefore important that we all have the same school holidays. I don’t see the issue with taking children out of school for holidays when they are in primary school, but I wouldn’t take a child out for more than a day or two in secondary school. #KCACOLS
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  24. That difference is huge!!! I was at a boarding school and I was taken out of school a lot during term time for family engagement affairs. It may or may not have affected my during my study years – but I’ve seem to have survived and doing okay so far. Sometimes, school rules are just ridiculous! #kcacols
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  25. I think quality family time is just as important as school time. You and Time Away bring up good points. I remember going on very few family vacations as a child because it was too costly to do so during summer vacation. I attended an year round school briefly in elementary school and found that to be pretty unique. I’d like to look into those as an option for my child. #KCACOLS Good luck with the campaign!
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  26. We don’t go away because we’re still finding our feet financially so I had no idea about the price disparity! Shocking! Staggered term-dates should help with that, shouldn’t it?

  27. (#KCACOLS)
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  28. As a teacher, NO, just NO! Teachers work so very hard, non stop during term time we need our holidays to survive and the need to be able to take them at the same time as our family. When schools change holiday dates all bedlam takes place and we end up having different dates to our partners and children. It does not work. We also have inflated holiday prices to deal with. Blame and change the holiday industry, not the teaching profession!
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  29. With my eldest starting school this year this is very interesting. The price hike of holidays is utterly ridiculous and whilst I understand the supply and demand part of it, I believe parents would be less likely to feel the need to take their kids out of school if there wasn’t a 40%difference in price! Family time is really important and with the daily grind the weekends aren’t always enough to get that quality in. Especially when you then add in everyone’s extra curricular activities, parties etc. Holidays are so essential.
    #KCACOLS

  30. It is often cheaper to pay a fine from the school than pay the extra holiday price hike. THIS IS WRONG! Why should families be punished at all?! #KCACOLS

  31. What a great idea! I think family holidays are so important, but also that school is too, so I’d definitely favour staggered school holidays to make going away cheaper. #KCACOLS
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  32. Part of me thinks this is a great idea but then another part doesn’t. It is unfair that holiday companies put the prices up so much during school holidays. I feel like they are part responsible as well as schools. If the prices weren’t so ridiculously inflated then parents might not feel the need to take them out of school time. #kcacols
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  33. I like the idea of this but I doubt it would bring down holiday costs and would merely extend peak times and make holidays more expensive all year round! #KCACOLS
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  34. I actually think this campaign makes a lot of sense. It doesnt make sense for parents to have to face extortionate travel prices when they are restricted to certain dates throughout the year. This is definitely going to be a campaign that I look at more closely! Emily #KCACOLS

  35. It’s interesting to see how other countries deal with school attendance. My daughter is on the verge of a fine just for missing school being sick this year. I understand the value of kids being in school, but the vast majority of parents understand that and if we keep our kids out of school generally its for a darned good reason! Parents are the ones responsible and parents should be able to make the final decision without repercussion. #KCACOLS

  36. If it was in anyway possible to cap holiday prices families with school age children would benefit and school would not be affected, in terms of exam times etc. It’s ridiculous how much the prices go up. #KCACOLS

  37. This half term I realised our school was off when almost the whole rest of the country was in school, I failed to notice in time to book a holiday (DOH!) maybe next time…
    I admit to taking my kids out of school for cheaper holidays, I am a bad Mummy…but they learned how to ski, you can’t teach that in school. #kcacols
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  38. Sorry I replied to another comment and got a bit carried away so forgot #KCACOLS. I think rather than date changes which already cause issues for us with having family in different counties with different dates, that every child should be allowed a certain number of days off/absent each school year and parents could apply for it just as you would apply for holiday at work, it can be approved or not but you still have your quota of days off each year. Attendance is approached all wrong I think.
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  39. I can see how this would help. Even in Canada it is an issue with price hikes. However, would this not create an issue if your children were in different schools? #KCACOLS

  40. My mum took me out of school twice a year for holidays! Up until I was 24. I don’t think my education was impacted that much. It’s not as if you are learning an awful week during the last week of term anyway. My husband is a teacher and it is difficult to find cheap holidays sometimes but we tend to travel long haul in the Easter break which helps.

    #KCACOLS

  41. The price hikes are ridiculous. I can see pros and cons of staggering. I think something needs to be done though. #KCACOLS

  42. I totally agree – we went away to visit my parents during February half term and coming back on the Sunday for the boys to be back in school by the Monday would have cost us £1,500 more than coming back on the Monday! Basically this would have meant cancelling the trip altogether. Thankfully our school haven’t introduced fines yet, but even if they did, it’d still be a lot cheaper to pay a fine than stick to term times. Of course, as you say, we would never keep the boys out of school for weeks on end. And to be fair we haven’t even attempted going on holidays during term time. But it should be possible! #KCACOLS
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  43. I’ve not heard of this campaign before but it sounds like a great idea. Holidays are so important but so expensive during school holidays. This seems like a solution. I’m guessing it wold be preferred that regions would stick to same holiday weeks so to ensure a family with high school children and primary school children wouldn’t end up with different holidays?
    #KCACOLS
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  44. It’s disgusting that travel companies do this to families. I imagine them getting savvy to the dates if they were to change too – especially if you were to book locally.#KCACOLS
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  45. I’m all for this idea. I also thing that school’s need to chill out a bit about trying to tell us when we can go on vacation. My daughter is 5 and in a few months I’m pulling her for two days to go to Disney. It annoys me that we have to have a shorter trip because I don’t want to deal with hassle from her school. She’s in kindergarten for crying out loud #KCACOLS

  46. As someone with a kid that isnt a school age it doesnt affect me… YET! i can only imagine the frustration. Its annoying even without kids with regards to the hike in summer prices but as someone who can barely deal with the foreign sun in early may, i cant go away at that time anyway hahah!
    I do think this is a great campaign though! #KCACOLS
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  47. This is so important! I’m from Norway – and in Norway, the children have a *right* to 2 weeks holiday throughout the year. How you spend these two weeks is entirely up to you – and most families would take out the 2 week holiday for going on vacation during term time. Also, most children will get homework to do while on holiday in term time, nothing big but small things that are on the teacher’s plan to go through the period they are away. And depending on the age of the child – many schools will ask the child to keep a diary so that they can write down anything exciting they have done and read it to the class when they get home.

    I absolutely do not see any point of fines and it really does RUIN things for many many families, including mine, that we can’t go on holiday in term time, because we can NOT afford to go during the season vacation time.

    #KCACOLS
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  48. I agree. The current situation is ridiculous. Why should travel companies hike prices by 40% to exploit the rest of us? No wonder some parents are running the risk of getting a fine with such an increase in holiday prices. I would too. I think as long as families are sensible and don’t go mad with taking children out of term time, a week or so out of term time really doesn’t hurt. Staggering school holidays is probably the best bet. An interesting campaign, I’ll be looking into this further. #KCACOLS x
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  49. I still think the biggest disgrace is that holiday companies hike the prices up. Something should be done to prevent this. Especially as it’s not even just by a few hundred who’d. A UK based lodge holiday company for example who add £700 to a break that is that much cheaper the previous week when the kids are at school. It’s just utterly disgraceful!

    #KCACOLS
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  50. I think this is a great idea. Last year our school half term was later than other areas and because of this, we managed to get an amazing groupon deal for a local holiday park. They weren’t expecting so many people and we all got to take our kids away for a few days. Staggering holidays means more families will be able to spend time away together that they may not have otherwise been able to do and I personally support it 100% #kcacols
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  51. Our local education authority is trialling a 2 week October half term this year, making the summer and Christmas holidays shorter for precisely this reason. As a working mum I have to say I’m not looking forward to it… #KCACOLS
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