Term staggering received wide support in the House of Commons debate over school holiday prices earlier this week.
The suggestion to scrap Air Passenger Duty (APD) during the school holidays was “not a flyer” said Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who had requested the debate. He also said that price capping was “not a practical solution”.
In the debate, Education secretary Michael Gove accused travel firms of’ “fleecing parents” by “ramping up prices at certain times of the year”. However, he said it was still wrong for parents to take their children out of school during term time, and that schools needed to be understanding and flexible when setting holiday dates.
Mr Gove told Sky News: “There’s no need to sacrifice your child’s education in order to secure a cheaper holiday. Schools now have the freedom to change their term dates in order to allow students and families the opportunity to go on holiday at different times.
“There are schools, like the David Young Community Academy in Leeds, which have altered their term times in order to enable parents to take advantage of cut-price deals.”
The comments came as MPs debated holiday price regulation following an e-petition signed by almost 170,000 people concerned about holiday price hikes during school holidays.
The petition, created by Donna Thresher, focused on holidays as important for families to spend quality time together. It said: “A break at home is not the same as getting away from it all where there isn’t any house work or DIY to get done, instead focus is on family. It’s time to stop the holiday companies cashing in on school holidays and let parents have some guilt-free family time!
“Enforce action that caps the percentage increase on holiday prices in school holidays.”
The cap on percentage increases during school holidays was not backed by any MPs in the debate. Consumer affairs minister Jenny Willott said: “The government is not convinced higher prices in school holidays are as a result of market abuse by the holiday industry, but rather they reflect the market forces in a very competitive sector.”
She added that by 2015 all schools will have the power to set their own term dates, and that staggering holiday dates could “help bring prices down”. The practice of staggering holidays has already been adopted by Scotland and countries such as Germany and France.
Stephen D’Alfonso, ABTA head of Public Affairs said: “Following the debate in the House of Commons on school holiday prices, ABTA welcomes the recognition by the majority of MPs who spoke during the debate of the extremely competitive nature of the British travel industry and also that holiday costs are driven by market forces.
“We look forward to working with both the Education Select Committee and the Department of Education to assess the feasibility of staggering school holiday dates by region.”