MP calls for schools to have ‘greater discretion’ on granting term-time holidays

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Schools must be given “greater discretion” in granting holidays during term-time, a Derbyshire MP has argued.

A 200,000-name petition calling for price caps to stop holiday firms “cashing in” on school breaks sparked a debate in the House of Commons on Monday.

Scores of parents have contacted the Derbyshire Times to complain about the inflated cost of holidays during half-term.

Speaking in Parliament, NE Derbyshire MP Natascha Engel said: “Nobody is arguing for taking children out of school indiscriminately just because it is a little cheaper to go on holiday. We are talking about the people who are least able to afford to go on holiday, who have already got the greatest pressures on them.

“All I am asking for is that we allow greater discretion. At the moment, there is not enough discretion.

“Obviously, we cannot force holiday companies not to raise their prices during school holiday times, but we do need to have a far more sensible and pragmatic approach. We need to give schools greater discretion to allow families to have holidays together.”

Ms Engel told Parliament of the “distressing case” of a girl with a brain tumour whose school had “cited Government legislation” in refusing to grant her time off for a holiday.

She said: “We must not impose so harshly on schools and use such a threatening tone with parents.

“For people on a low income, the inability to ever go on holiday would be a great shame.”

A rule change which came into effect last September means headteachers can only grant time off in “exceptional circumstances”.

Previously parents were allowed to take their children out of school for ten days per academic year.

Responding to Ms Engel, consumer affairs minister Jenny Willott said: “The Government has not said that no absence is possible.

“It has given headteachers the discretion to make that call and we also haven’t specified what constitutes exceptional circumstances as we think individual cases need to be considered individually.”

On the Derbyshire Times Facebook page, Brenda Savage said: “Holiday firms are just money grabbing when it’s the school breaks.”

Ravelle Sheree Josephs added: “It’s not always an issue with money. Not everyone can have time off work in school holidays!”