PARENTS increasingly face a dilemma over the question of whether to take their children out of school during term-time in order to afford a family holiday.
Soaring costs during the school holidays means that a break is simply beyond the means of many families.
The travel industry has long argued that the hike in prices during the peak summer weeks is a straightforward matter of supply and demand when flights and accommodation are full, yet many parents suspect that it is more an issue of holiday firms cashing in.
This has produced an increase in the number of children being withdrawn from school for holidays when prices are lower. Although understandable in its way, this trend is a matter for concern.
Losing out on lessons hampers a child’s education.
It also has knock-on effects for schools, as teachers have to spend additional time helping absentees catch up, which not only places them under yet more pressure, but can potentially hold back other children.
What is clear is that the system of fining parents for term-time absences is not working, since the level of penalties is less than the summer increase in holiday prices. It also has the undesirable effect of producing tensions between parents and schools, which is not in the best interests of either and particularly not those of children.
This suggests that the Government needs to rethink the policy, because since its introduction in 2013 the gulf between holiday prices and what families can afford has grown wider.
Though well-intentioned, sanctions on parents will be counter-productive if they poison the atmosphere between home and school.
It may well be that the Government needs to take a more flexible approach, and look at the broader issues involved, including questioning the travel industry over the level of summer price increases.