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'Reasonable flexibility' should be given to parents to choose on term-time leave

3 min read

St Austell and Newquay MP Steve Double writes ahead of the Westminster Hall Debate on an e-petition relating to term-time leave from school for holiday.

This week I am leading a Westminster Hall debate on school term-time leave for holidays.  This debate arose as a result of over 100,000 signatories to an e-petition, calling for flexibility to allow two weeks authorised leave for a family holiday.

Sadly the previous Government was guilty, in the process of seeking to improve school attendance, which I fully support, of bringing measures that have had unintended consequences.  

As families are now restricted from taking a holiday during term times, the holiday season in Cornwall has now been further concentrated into the 6 or 7 weeks of the school holidays.  The so called shoulder months of May, June, and September have seen a drop in visitors, while many establishments have had to turn away guests in the school holidays. It is not sustainable to increase capacity to serve a short six-week peak season while suffering lower usage in the other months.

Cornwall has a long tradition of serving our countrymen during the school holidays; we have a beautiful county and welcome others to enjoy it with us. This comes at a cost.  Those in the tourist industry know that they cannot enjoy family holidays along with the rest of the country, it is their busiest time, not their holiday time.  As a result of this policy, people working in tourism are now told that they cannot have a family holiday.  Additionally it is well known that the cost of a holiday during the peak season is out of the reach of many lower paid households.

I have been contacted by many people from across the country each with their own story of how this policy impacts their family – not just missing out on holidays but important family events are being sacrificed.

Life in the 21st century is busy; many struggle to spend time together as a family. The annual family holiday has become even more important to the fabric of family life.  It is often the only time that children get to spend quality, uninterrupted time with their parents.  To remove this important event from families in the tourist sector is clearly unfair. 

Holiday experiences, especially when we are young, often create deep and lasting memories some that shape our later lives. Many of my constituents have retired to Cornwall because they remember idyllic childhood holidays. Travel broadens the mind and I do not want to deprive any child of that opportunity.

Fundamentally I do not believe it is the role of the state to dictate to parents in this way. Every child is different and parents should be allowed to make the decision on what is right and best for their son or daughter.

When this decision was taken there was no debate or vote in Parliament. It was brought in by a Statutory Instrument that stated no impact assessment was required as no economic or social impact was foreseen. Two years later it is clear that there has been both an economic and social impact and therefore I am calling for the Government to review this policy and allow a proper debate to take place.    

I am not suggesting a carte blanche for absenteeism, or that rules are not put in place, I am asking that reasonable flexibility to be given to allow parents to choose what is best for their own children.

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