Family holidays ‘could become preserve of middle class’

England, UK . 23.2.2011. London . NUT portraits. Christine Blower, General Secretary. Licensed for editorial use by the National Union of Teachers.'Copyright � 2011 Andrew Wiard - Phone: + 44 (0) 7973-219 201. Email - andrew@reportphotos.com.
England, UK . 23.2.2011. London . NUT portraits. Christine Blower, General Secretary. Licensed for editorial use by the National Union of Teachers.'Copyright � 2011 Andrew Wiard - Phone: + 44 (0) 7973-219 201. Email - andrew@reportphotos.com.
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TEACHERS HAVE called for a relaxation of strict rules on taking pupils out of school during term time amid fears poorer families are losing out on breaks.

The family holiday could soon become an exclusive preserve of the middle class, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has warned, because less affluent parents cannot afford the cost of travelling during school breaks.

Mothers and fathers on lower incomes are reported to have been worst-hit by regulations introduced by former education secretary Michael Gove, which means headteachers are only allowed to grant youngsters leave in ‘exceptional circumstances’. Those who break the rules face a £60 penalty.

In a resolution to be debated at its annual conference in April, the NUT said mothers and fathers should be able to take their youngsters out of the classroom without running the risk of being fined.

General secretary Christine Blower said: “If you have a reasonable amount of disposable income it might not be what you want to do but it’s something you can afford to do.

“But if you are a family who doesn’t really have much disposable income - and we know that the poor are getting poorer - then they are going to miss out on this.

“It shouldn’t be that the opportunity for a family holiday is the preserve of the middle classes.”

Up until September 2013, schools were allowed to grant pupils up to 10 days holiday a year during term-time.

The Government has faced repeated calls to reverse the rule change since its introduction.

Last October, the Local Government Association said it ought to be down to individuals to decide whether to grant leave, and that headteachers should be allowed to take a ‘common sense’ approach to the issue.

The NUT’s resolution, which will be put forward to delegates at the gathering in Liverpool, argues that despite recent advice from heads clarifying their interpretation of the rules, the regulations still unfairly impact on working parents, especially the low paid.

It says: “Taking children on holiday is not the same as persistent truancy. Holidays can provide valuable experiences and outdoor learning opportunities.

The resolution also says that much more pressure needs to be put on travel companies to change pricing structures that see fares soar during school holidays.

Ms Blower added: “We’re not saying that it’s fine for children to be out of school at the drop of a hat.

“But a week’s holiday can be a very positive thing in a child’s life, particularly if they won’t otherwise get one and will see their friends going on one.”