DUNCAN BARKES Target holiday cartels, not the hard-up parents

Hard-working parents who simply want to take an affordable holiday with their children are the coalition government’s latest target.

Education secretary Michael Gove has apparently outlined a crackdown on parents who take advantage of ‘authorised absence’ in order to take their children on holiday during term time. The Department of Education are refusing to confirm or deny if this is the case.

Headteachers currently have the authority to grant families up to two weeks a year of ‘authorised absence’.

This discretionary permission is intended to cover issues like bad weather, illness or family bereavement, but many heads are asked, and indeed approve, children being absent so they can be taken on a family holiday during term time.

The Conservative part of the coalition government appears to be on a mission to prove how tough they are, especially when you consider this move will be accompanied by tougher fines for parents whose children regularly play truant.

I am all for cracking down on truancy, but many families can only afford an annual holiday if they are granted permission to take their child out of school.

If the Powers That Be want to demonstrate their toughness then they should be taking issue with the mercenary attitude of the holiday companies and airlines.

Holiday companies operate as a cartel in this respect and it has been going on for decades, which means that most of us would have to sell a kidney in order to fund a family break during a school holiday.

And why is taking a young child on holiday such a bad thing? Travel is a tremendous form of education. Experiencing a different country’s food, culture, landscape, environment and people can surely only enrich a child’s education?

Another consideration is that if you have relatives on the other side of the world, then their holidays rarely coincide with the British calendar. Mrs B’s brother and his wife are both teachers in the US.

Their school breaks seldom coincide, so visits either way are tricky to orchestrate. Likewise the logistics problem exists for those who work in industries where holiday periods are dictated by their company’s fixed ‘shut down’.

This government is placing great emphasis on the importance of family. It’s a bit rich, therefore, to start leaping up and down and threatening to fine people for trying to spend quality time with their family unit.

We work some of the longest hours in Europe and survey after survey shows that parents wish they had more time to spend with their children.

Travel broadens the mind and gives children a different view of life. A few days off school should be seen as an investment.

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