Travel deals specialist Travelzoo has renewed demands for school holidays in the UK to be staggered after a father who was fined for taking his daughter on holiday in term time lost his appeal.
Travel firms were criticised for “unscrupulous” hikes in prices during school holidays by Michael Gove MP, who brought in a stricter regime for combating school absenteeism when the education secretary.
The controversial move was challenged by Jon Platt who refused to pay a £120 fine imposed the local authority of the Isle of Wight and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which announced its verdict yesterday.
Platt argued that the law did not apply to pupils with a good attendance record his daughter’s holiday absence did not constitute regularly missing school.
Travelzoo has campaigned for changes to the school holidays in the UK so they are staggered to alleviate what it dubbed the “parent trap”. In response to the Supreme Court ruling Travelzoo’s European operations director Stephen Dunk said:
“There have been 12.8 million days of unauthorised absence in the past year, so parents in the UK clearly feel it’s worth running the risk of a fine to take children out of school for recreational purposes.
“Travelzoo has long maintained that a better solution is needed to what we call the Parent Trap: the toxic combination of the highest flight tax in the world, fines for parents taking their children away during term time and the inevitable peak pricing that makes holidays inaccessible for millions of UK families.
“Travelzoo does not condone taking children out of school during term time, but we do feel a more flexible solution is needed.
“Where we believe real progress could be made is in staggering holidays regionally rather than school by school.
“Regional staggering is in place in Europe and it would mean that our summer holiday period could stretch from early June to mid-September, giving holiday companies and hotels a 10-week window in which to attract families, rather than the current squeeze of six weeks when the whole of the UK family market flocks to the same beaches.
“Alleviating peak pricing for international travel is challenging. However, many in the industry believe regional staggering would help reduce pressure on international flight prices during peak periods.
“For the UK tourism market, regional staggering would have huge benefits. The tourism boards of Devon and Cornwall have spoken to Travelzoo about this and say many hotels in their region have ceased trying to appeal to families, as the market is so restricted.
“They also say a 10-week window would put much less stress on the local infrastructure and would reduce the challenge of having to employ additional staff for such a short period of the summer.
“Travelzoo believes staggering regionally rather than school by school has not been looked into sufficiently. We urge the government to explore this option seriously to help the UK economy and hard-pressed families.”