Recently I had a bit of a shock. I was engaging in an activity I’ve become accustomed to over the years but suddenly the game has changed, the goalposts have been moved and the stakes have risen.
Let’s start at the beginning. Back in September 2014 my eldest child embarked upon his “big” school life, entering Reception year at our local Primary. I was well aware that this milestone was going to affect all of us as a family, putting time pressures and (soon, I fear) homework and attainment stresses on all of us. One of those time pressures very much includes the strict limitations we now have when it comes to family holidays, and of course I was familiar with the debate which rages on with regards price surges at peak, school holiday, times of year.
However it’s not until you sit staring at the price calendars of various holiday companies and tour operators as you mull your, suddenly non-existent options, that it really hits home.
According to research the average price leap for a holiday taken in the school break is 30% although in reality this seems to vary massively from one company to the next.
This time last year the topic was all over the news as Michael Gove’s new policy of taking away schools’ discretion in allowing reasonable levels of term time holidays and imposing strictly enforceable fines for doing so hit the headlines with a petition started by a disgruntled mum eliciting 170,000 signatures and forcing a debate in Parliament.
The petition called for the government to enforce caps on holiday companies charging more for peak season breaks so that perceived unfair profiteering which arguably takes advantage of us poor parents would finally ease off.
Funnily enough nothing came of this as the government pointed out that the travel industry has to charge more for peak season in order to survive the rest of the year. Market forces, yada yada yada.
So where does that leave us? Well, Cameron has very kindly given us the ability to petition our own schools for a staggered term time from September this year thereby avoiding the summer gridlock. But what if you have two children in different schools with different term dates? Nightmare! Personally I don’t see this happening in individual schools as it would be seen as an unwanted administrative headache.
But if staggered term dates were imposed nationally, doesn’t it stand to reason that the travel companies would catch on and just hike up their prices for several more weeks of the year? The fact of the matter is that the British summertime only lasts so long – let’s say June- September. So maybe another ten weeks of inflated prices (and who draws the short straw of the really expensive bit?).
I can see a petition to stagger based on a county by county basis reducing admin per school, and potentially making it less worthwhile for the travel biz to increase prices across the board (a more restricted, less random flow of extra punters at any given time reducing a knee jerk reaction?) (come to think of it, why didn’t the government go down this road – it clearly works for countries like France?) but is this an unreasonably optimistic prediction? And just how easy would it be to make this dream a reality?
In the meantime maybe we’ll all just keep taking the hit of a £60 per child, per parent fine for a term time holiday which would have cost £500 more in August.