Last Friday was most likely the last day of the February half term holiday for many of our readers and, as many of the children now returning to normality start to wonder why they hadn’t done their homework before they went away, so their parents must be wondering what was worse; being in the frying pan or being in the fire?
Being in the frying pan means following school rules and taking the children on holiday during the prescribed school holiday dates, but being forced to pay up to eight times more in travel costs as a result.
Being in the fire means ignoring the school rules and paying less for the holiday, but running the risk of being fined by the school.
Most law abiding parents probably chose to be in the frying pan last week, but must now be wondering whether it was worth it. According to a news report published on the Mail Online website last week, average flight prices increased by over 200% during half-term compared to normal, while a post shared by an angry parent went viral on Facebook when he took a screenshot of the Centre Parks website; which showed a £680 difference in prices listed for the week before half term and those shown during half term week.
Most newspapers reported on how families were ‘at the mercy of airlines, travel companies and British holiday parks’ and parents’ forums and other social media sites gave an insight into the anger and impotence that parents feel about this issue. ‘SHEER PROFFITEERING! Screamed one post, although perhaps on reflection it does look like its author didn’t pay much attention during English, or were they simply on holiday?
Although we’re sure that there are some unscrupulous players involved in the travel industry, the vast majority are only following the laws of supply and demand. And although some may have the flexibility to, say, put on bigger aircraft over half term (and so accommodate the increase in demand) the vast majority are locked into a rigid system. Once a hotel is full, its full.
But being in the fire looks equally uncomfortable. Successive governments have really turned the screws on the schools when it comes to handling unauthorised leave of absence and have given them powers to fine parents up to £60 per child. For the recalcitrant or the sheer bloody minded who refuse to pay the fine, the penalties get progressively worse and, if you don’t pay within 28 days, you could be taken to court. If found guilty, you could then end up with a criminal record and face a fine of up to £2,500, as well as other measures like receiving a jail sentence or a parenting order which requires the miscreant to go to parenting classes.
Phew. And all this over a holiday!
Reading around the subject, its clear that something has to give. The travel industry dislikes being cast as the villain of the piece whilst teaching staff dislike the difficult position this sometime puts them in. (Not the least having to turn a blind eye to some pretty blatant ‘porkies’ told by parents regarding why their children need to leave school the week before half term due to illness but arrive back looking remarkably healthy). Most parents are, rightly, angry at the situation and the children? well, fire or frying pan, they probably don’t care that much either way as long as they got to stay up later than usual.