doc

SCHOOLS should be able to set their own term times which would help drive down the price of family holidays, Wycombe MP Steve Baker said.

A debate on holiday pricing was held in Westminster Hall on Monday after more than 170,000 people signed a parent's petition demanding for a cap on the amount of money travel firms were allowed to charge at peak times.

A separate petition signed by more than 200,000 people is also urging the government to perform a u-turn on a rule which enables head teachers to only grant children time off in "exceptional circumstances".

Previously headteachers could allow pupils out of school for 10 days per academic year in “special circumstances”.

Mr Baker said he was pleased his fellow MPs rejected the idea of price fixing and believes the Deregulation Bill currently going through Parliament – which would enable schools to fix their own school times and holidays – could be the answer to beating the travel agents.

He said: “Quality family time is obviously essential.

"It is to be regretted that the synchronisation of school holidays herds so many of us into taking a break at the same time that artificially boosts demand and prices.

“That’s why I am glad the Deregulation Bill gives responsibility for fixing dates of terms and times of sessions to governing bodies.

“I’d like to see a much more diverse education system in which parents have a direct say over their children’s schools. That’s why I have been a keen supporter of academies, free schools and the co-operative model.

“But I’m glad price fixing has been rejected. It’s always superficially attractive but responsible politicians know that government price controls lead to failure, impoverishment and misery.

“It’s much better to remove the distorting interventions of government which are the cause of our difficulties. I hope the policy of greater freedom for schools will quickly resolve this problem.”

During Monday’s debate, MPs suggested staggering school term dates and giving teachers more discretion on granting child absences.

But they rejected price-caps and Education Secretary Michael Gove's idea to freeze air passenger duty during the summer months.

Lakshan Wanigasooriya, chair of the Eastside Youth Club, has been circulating the petition for the reinstatement of the ’10 day rule’.

He welcomed the ideas put forward by MPs but believes the government still needed to scrutinise the pricing strategies of the travel industry.

The Sri Lankan-born Wycombe resident said: “It would be a great idea to revert back to the old rules, give teachers more say or potentially the different term times but there are other factors to take into consideration.

“Such as teachers who are also parents who have children at other schools, how would they get time off together to go on holiday if everyone had different term times?

“In my opinion, all children who have a good attendance record should be allowed to enjoy quality time with their parents on holiday.

“Who is allowed and not allowed should be down to the headteachers to decide on pre-noted guidelines, with a reasonable appeal process.

“Good, hard-working parents should not be criminalised for wanting an affordable holiday. We are supposed to live in a multi-cultural country and travelling is an essential source of learning for children and adults.”