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School holidays - cost of travel and taking kids out in term time poll - the results!

(60 Posts)
JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 08-Jul-09 09:21:50


So it seems that understandably we're pretty angry about school holiday price hikes. (see results of MN survey below). Just wondering if anyone had any thoughts about what next - we could release these findings and they might make a news item but should we be trying to do more - effect policy in some way, put direct pressure on the travel companies, lobby abta or something... anyone got any ideas on what next?

Here are the key findings:

4 out of 5 (81%) of parents said they felt angry about the price hikes in holidays during the school holidays and 74% felt that the travel companies were exploiting parents who had no choice about holiday dates. 62% said that the cost of taking a break during school holidays was stopping them from going away.

More than half (56%) of parents surveyed said they would take their children out of school during term time for a beach or relaxing holiday, with the figure rising to 80% if it was a once in a lifetime, long haul trip. Of those who had already taken their child out of school during term time 43% cited cost as the reason for doing so.

Other findings:

• More than 40% of parents say their school strongly discourages parents from taking children out of school during term time, but at these schools, 77% report parents do it anyway, often citing the 10 day guideline.

• 58% of parents agreed that taking a child out of school for a holiday is hard on the teachers

• 66% agreed that children can learn as much from being on holiday a being at school.

edam Wed 08-Jul-09 09:45:36

Media release + lobby ABTA and Dept for Children, Schools and Families - see if you can put pressure on them to get together?

But ultimately that's capitalism for you...

muddleduck Wed 08-Jul-09 09:49:57

I agree that it is unlikely that the travel companies are going to stop doing this. Lets be honest - it is not really their fault that so much of the demand for their produce comes in such a small time window.

I'd say a more productive tactic would be to campaign for staggered school holidays. There is no reason at all that everyone has to be on holiday at the same time. I know there is some variation between areas, but not nearly enough. Xmas and Easter are obviously fixed to some extent but this still leaves alot of flexibility.

OnceWasSquiffy Wed 08-Jul-09 09:50:19

Why not do something more interesting......

This site is full of sucessful mums and mums who are passionate about their kids. Nothing to stop us trying to launch a plan to actually act on what we all know. You could launch an appeal to get members to volounteer to work together to build a business plan (and do the research) to see if we can actually fill the gap in the market.

What you have at the moment is proof that there is a gap. Currently holiday companies have to block-book flights and accomodation that covers not just the school holidays, but much of the whole year. They will settle the price levels at the point where supply at that price = demand at that price. And their costs include annual costs of running a company, publicity, marketing, brochure, empty weeks, and so on and so on. Which means they simply cannot reduce their prices and remain profitable.

But what is to stop US block-booking somewhere in the Med direct with the owners, chartering a flight and sending out 200 mumsnetters for a week's holiday, in the summer of 2010, at cost?

Launch that as a 'Mumsnet mission' for 2010, and you'll get more publicity than you can shake a stick at, especially if you email Branson and get him to lend a plane.

Ask for MN volounteers (lawyers, PR people, finance people, people in the travel busienss already) and see what happens. If it dies, it dies. If not, well, could be fun....

Itsjustafleshwound Wed 08-Jul-09 09:52:53

But then again - the holiday companies are not uniquely British and so ABTA would be pretty toothless to stop them charging huge prices when these holidays are being bought by others ...

geordieminx Wed 08-Jul-09 09:53:18

I'm with Squiffy - Squiffy for prime minister!!

edam Wed 08-Jul-09 09:55:25

Brilliant idea, squiffy, but can you imagine the rash of AIBU threads?

Met this awful couple who let their kids run around causing havoc/ this horrible family who smacked their children/ snotty people whose children are too clever for state schools/ dreadful louts with children at comps/ people who hired a 4x4 on holiday etc. etc. etc. grin

muddleduck Wed 08-Jul-09 09:59:25

Nice idea squiffy but I can't see how it would work.

We would still need to charter a plane and book accommodation for the busiest time of the year and so the prices will inevitably be higher than if we were doing the same off peak. I agree that cutting out the middle man would remove some of the excess in the price jump but the basic problem of supply and demand will still be there.

I stick by my earlier comment that the key is to get rid of the peak in demand by spreading the holidays more than is currently done.

3littlefrogs Wed 08-Jul-09 10:11:12

I would propose 4 or 5 "terms" a year, with more equal holidays, so that parents have more choice as to when to take a longish break. most people can only get 2 weeks, or maybe 3 at the most, off work at a stretch..

I would keep schools open all year round and run training courses, and sports camps staffed by local authority leisure staff as well as the school curriculum.

School buildings and facilities are underused.

Of course teachers need their holidays, but not necessarily all at the same time, and not for 8 weeks over the summer.

PortAndLemon Wed 08-Jul-09 11:33:33

The price hikes are the way capitalism works, though. And if you want to challenge that, then good luck, but it's not been noticeably a roaring success elsewhere... (I'd suggest starting by growing distinctive beards and commissioning some iconic posters)

I agree with 3littlefrogs that more shorter terms spread over the year is probably the way to go, as there would have to be a price-smoothing effect coming out of that.

CrochetDiva Wed 08-Jul-09 11:45:02

8 weeks over the summer? Since when?

The May half-term holiday is the only one which has to be set in stone for everybody: the external exams are at that time of year, and the timetable for that has to be nationwide.

It's happened once in my teaching career that we had Easter weekend as a bankholiday weekend, then went back to school for a week, then finished for the "Easter holiday".

The French work a system of staggered holidays and it works quite well for them: theirs are so that the ski season can be extended though! They finish for the summer usually in the latter half of June.

AAs a parent of a 6-year-old, I wouldn't want him in school any longer than he is nnow - he's on his knees with tiredness at the moment.

LupusinaLlamasuit Wed 08-Jul-09 12:33:50

Staggering, yes. Longer 'half terms' yes but still need childcare and/or supportive holidays

Pressure/lobby campaign yes: I'm up for that.

And MN Holidays? Yes.

When I get round to it, I'm going to do more houseswapping.

Hotcrossbunny Wed 08-Jul-09 12:49:19

But if you stagger holidays, you'll get the situation where families can have children in different counties having completely different holidays. How would childcare work then?

I agree with CrochetDiva that I wouldn't want my dd to be in school any longer than she is now. She's exhausted and we're counting down to breaking up for the summer...And she barely gets 6 weeks off...(not 8)

Parents with children in private schools seem to be luckier. My friend, whose dd breaks up today, is off to a cottage in Cornwall this weekend, which has cost under £600. In state school holidays, that goes up to £1500shock

gigglewitch Wed 08-Jul-09 13:02:30

I reckon that set of responses has given enough ammunition to hit the education folks, particularly in Primary age children. OK so I trained as a teacher in my former life grin but I think it makes sense to allow parents to take their children out of school for two weeks at a time, provided that they can cite a few areas of learning for their child.
It's no hardship (and may of us would anyway) to show your child where you are going on the map - be it 50 miles of 500 miles, and get them to help plan the route as appropriate to their age. Then if you are going on a couple of sighseeing trips, surely you'll hear a bit about the history and / or culture of the place you are visiting, and perhaps even keep a scrapbook of photos and notes, tickets and stuff afterwards?
My dc tend to do this sort of stuff anyway, and really enjoy taking their scrapbooks or photo album into school when they get back after the holidays. Why not go for agreed learning targets to get time on holiday? Even if you are planning to spend a full two weeks in the pool and on the beach, you can surely justify teaching them to swim and water safety, so you don't have to be a culture-vulture type to get something out of it. Even our recent weekend in soggy cumbria was good for teamwork and communication grin

If term time holiday learning was seen as a valuable experience rather than a big skive opportunity, schools would look on it far more favourably, IMHO.

Hulababy Wed 08-Jul-09 13:19:20

gigglewitch - DD does the scrapbook think on holiday. We tend to do a page a night, before bed, sticking in bits from leaflets, tickets, etc and adding some writing. We leave spaces for photos once printed at home. DD loves taking it into school when we go back.

We don't have term time holidays, but DD loves doing them.

KingCanuteIAm Wed 08-Jul-09 13:40:21

THe whole thing with hitting the holiday providers/organisers etc has been done before and was hailed a success at the time yet here we are again, I would be interested to know if this is because they have slowly bought the prices back up or have stopped offering the promised discounts etc.

TBH I think it would make more sense to sort the problem out in the schools more. Evening out the terms, staggering summe holidays and perhaps offering a "floating holiday" say one or two weeks that can be taken at any time during a certain term/half term.

A floating holiday would mean that parents have greater flexibility and teachers could plan a little more than just having random holidays at any time during the school year. It would get around the problem of parents who do not get summer holidays off and would enable us to take advantage of slightly lower prices.

ScarletBandit Wed 08-Jul-09 14:15:02

I like the sound of the "floating holiday". Personally, that would make a huge difference to me as I would never plan to holiday for more than two weeks in a year anyway, and it would offer the flexibility of going away when it suited my family.

whomovedmychocolate Wed 08-Jul-09 16:57:59

We have staggered holidays round here but only by a week or so which is not much use. hmm Just confuses the crap out of parents with kids at different schools who, yes you've guessed it, often don't share holidays hmm

Blu Wed 08-Jul-09 17:09:02

Given the need for exams to be taken at the same time (for marking, so that all have equal amount of time beforehand etc) any staggering would surely mean that many people would have more holiday at cold and wet times of the year.

This is also the problem with more terms and holiday spread over the year. I don't WANT more holiday in cold wet times of year. We already have two half terms, the easter 2 weeks and christmas 2 weeks in colder months. OK if you can and do jet off to warmer places at those times, but if you live in a small flat and can't afford a big entertainment budget, more winter hols will be miserable.

Hulababy Wed 08-Jul-09 17:13:24

Staggering summer holidays would be awful! Can you imagine how you would manage children in different schools, or teacher parents, having different holidays to their children. Many people live on LEA borderlines or work outside their local LEA, s they would never match up. It is bad enough that INSET days often don't match up, even within LEAs.

Maybe at primary level at least schools need to be a little more obliging in letting children take the 10 days that is already there. With some warning - most schools ask for at least 2 weeks anyway - most teachers can easily work round this.

At secondary, or at least exam years, it is more difficult.

Hulababy Wed 08-Jul-09 17:14:52

I agree - I want my child (and me now) to be off for the most time when it is warmer and sunnier, rather than at cold and wet times of the year.

KingCanuteIAm Wed 08-Jul-09 17:54:17

I do kind of agree about the Summer hols being a bit too good to give up! Having said that though, I would love to have a longer Christmas holiday, currently it is far to short to make the most of and I would love to do a family holiday at Christmas rather than to Pontins with hundreds upon hundreds of others in the wet british "summer" - which is all we can afford in the Summer. (nothing against Pontins btw, I just know I could get more for the same money at other times of the year and it makes me a bit cross!)

GreenMonkies Wed 08-Jul-09 23:15:12

If we had staggered holidays teacher/parents would have to do what us "other" working parents do, and use holiday clubs, "play dates" and grandparents to help out with childcare.

I would happily see shorter terms with more, shorter, holidays. As it stands at the moment, I am not going to be able to take any time off over the 6 week summer break, as two members of staff have each booked three weeks off and blocked the whole school holiday period, and the joke is that neither of them has school age children!!!

DD1 is in year 1 now, and will move up to year 2 in September, last summer, despite a week away and several good days out and playing with friends etc, by half way through the 6 weeks off she was missing her friends, bored and asking when she was going back to school. I know this won't always be the case, but do we really still need 6 weeks off over the summer, it's not like our kids are going to be busy with the Harvest now is it???

KingCanuteIAm Thu 09-Jul-09 07:37:18

I know what you ar saying about harvest, summer holidays are a historic thing however, I find, the break is not long enough in lots of ways. Now my dc are growing, especially dd1 who has her own life more and more, I value every second of the holidays. Even just being together at home is worth its weight in gold these days. I have to admit, although I think more even terms may help some problems I would be hard pressed to give it up. I build up to it all year and I know I am very lucky as most parents cannot get that time away from work.

Hulababy Thu 09-Jul-09 08:36:24

Staggered holidays would be less easy to manage for teacher parents as they don't have the flexibility to take holidays whent hey chose, unlike other workers. So if their own holiday is staggered away from their children's they may not be able to take time off when they have to for their children.

Also holiday clubs would not be as freely available. Holiday clubs work now as schools can get together, or external agencies outside of the education system, and several children from different schools all join together to make holiday clubs work and to keep them sustainable. If you have different schools having different holidays this would be far more difficult to manage and you may find the choice of holiday clubs reduces limiting everyone's choices.

Also if you stagger holidays, esp the summer one that would mean a whole change to everything in the education system especially examination systems and potentially affecting university systems with applications and entry. Our education system is at the bottom of a whole pile of other stuff. It is not just as simple as people think to change the holidays.

The school holidays are not the problem as such. This is easily got round if schools allow children to have the 10 days already cited. And if travel companies try to avoid the massive pice hikes and start offering child discounts in holidays.

I think forums like MN should also ensure that the holiday prizes they offer include school holiday dates, as many of the prizes - such as Centre Parks, who are really reallyy bad with price hikes - can only be used in term time. If the forums started challenging these maybe it would get the message across, or at least start to.

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