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Parents take legal action against term-time holiday ban
May 27th, 2014 by elisa

Parents are taking a stand against the ban on term-time holidays. Campaign group ‘Parents want a say‘ officially launched over the weekend and has already won support of 200,000 other parents.

The group is seeking judicial review of the rules, claiming that they are a breach of the human right to family life.

Last September, Education Secretary Michael Gove removed the policy which allowed schools to grant up to 10 days leave to families in “special circumstances”, also threatening parents with fines of up to £1,000 or even to be put in prison for taking their children out of school for a family holiday during term time.

One e-petition in opposition to the rules and school holiday price hikes gained well over 160,000 signatures in February and led to the topic being debated in Parliament.

The new campaign group is run by Karen Wilkinson, a mother of three from Bath in Somerset.

Its website argues that last year’s changes are unfairly criminalising hardworking families for wanting to enjoy affordable holidays together.

“The cost of a family holiday during the school holidays is an expense many working families simply can’t afford,” it says.

“Furthermore, it is not simply a matter of cost for many families; most businesses can’t allow large numbers of their staff to take leave at the same time either.

“Those hardest hit by this short sighted policy include the country’s highly valued public sector workers. Military families are restricted on when they take holidays due to work, training and overseas deployment, as are many NHS doctors and nurses for similar reasons.

“Those caring for our country’s elderly, operating national transport systems and our police force will also suffer under this policy, unable to enjoy family holiday’s when work schedules allow them to without facing fines for doing so.

“Government inference without due consideration to the families it will effect is unacceptable. The responsibility of making decisions about our children should be put back in the hands of the parent. All children who have a good attendance record should be allowed to enjoy and benefit from experiencing time abroad with their parents on an annual holiday of up to 10 day per year.”

 

Do you feel that the rules are unfair and unlawful? Post comments below. 

Term staggering receives support in debate over school holiday prices
Feb 26th, 2014 by elisa

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.”

 

Suspend APD during school holidays
Feb 24th, 2014 by elisa

A suspension of aviation tax during the school holidays to help make family breaks more affordable is one of the options to be discussed in today’s parliamentary debate.

The debate, chaired by the Commons Backbench Committee, centres on the issue of high holiday prices during school holidays, and the new regulations that mean parents may face a fine if they take their children on holiday in term time.

A survey by the Telegraph found that package holidays are typically 30-40 per cent more expensive during school holidays, and scrapping Air Passenger Duty (APD) would save a family of four between £52 and £376 on an overseas holiday, depending on how far they travel.

Other suggestions have been to stagger school holiday times, and to regulate holiday prices during these peak times.

School holiday prices to be debated in Parliament
Feb 7th, 2014 by elisa

A father’s rant on Facebook about price hikes in school holidays has led to the topic being discussed in Parliament.

Paul Cookson ranted on the social network about being “sick to death” of “rip off” charges after trying to book a holiday with his daughter.

He formed a Facebook group called Holiday Price Increase which encouraged people to share their stories of extortionate holiday price hikes over school holidays. This led to more than 160,000 signatures on an e-petition posted on the page to request the topic to be debated in the House of Commons.

The number of signatures is well over the 100,000 required to instigate a parliamentary debate. The Commons Backbench Committee has now agreed to debate the issue in Westminster Hall on 24th February.

Lib Dem MP John Hemming, who proposed the debate, told the BBC it was a “big issue for parents”.

The MP for Birmingham Yardley added: “The problem is half-terms all tend to be the same, leading to a very big demand for holidays all at the same time. And reducing the flexibility of people to take their children out of school adds to that.”

Prior to the Facebook rant, the e-petition, originally set up by mum-of-two Donna Thresher in March 2013, had only a few signatures.

Cookson told the BBC that the petition’s call for price regulation might not be successful, but it could increase the chances of tour operators changing their policies: “The ideal is to work with the holiday companies directly to advise them on the business of reduced-priced holidays in these set times – it can be done”.

New rules that make it harder for parents to take their children out of school during term time, came in to force last September. One couple were fined £1,000 for taking their children on holiday.

 

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