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City considering school summer break shake-up in bid to cut holiday costs

Published 06/01/2016

High prices for holidays during school breaks often leave families with a dilemma
High prices for holidays during school breaks often leave families with a dilemma

Families could benefit from cheaper holidays if plans to cut the lengthy school summer holidays go ahead under proposals being looked at by a city council.

Brighton and Hove City Council is proposing to examine a shake-up of its school holiday dates to help hard-pressed families who are faced with steep rises in the cost of breaks.

High prices for holidays during school breaks often leave families with the dilemma of whether to pay more, or take their child out of school and run the risk of a fine.

In Brighton, the city council may look at cutting the six-week summer holiday and creating a "standalone" week's holiday when going away is less expensive.

Inset days could also be co-ordinated into a block to create a long weekend or even a full week's break at a time when holidays are less dear.

Brighton and Hove City Council's children, young people and skills committee will consider on January 11 whether to discuss the options with the city's schools.

Committee chairman Tom Bewick said: "If there is something we can do to offer lower-income families in particular the chance to take holidays that would otherwise be unaffordable then I think it's worth exploring.

"Being able to take a cheap family holiday in March, for example, would make a huge difference to thousands of local people including, of course, our teachers.

"The long summer holiday goes back to the 19th century when children helped bring in the harvest. It's time to take a fresh look at this and try and find a consensus for what works best for families in the 21st century."

An investigation by the Press Association in October revealed the number of fines given to parents for taking their children on holiday in term time has almost trebled in two years.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed that in the last academic year alone, at least 50,414 penalty notices were issued due to children being taken out of lessons for trips.

This is up 25% on the year before, when at least 40,218 penalties were given out, and up 173% from the 18,484 fines handed out by local authorities in 2012/13. These figures cover 71 councils that provided data for all three years.

The hikes came in the wake of a Government crackdown on absence, including strict new rules on term-time holidays introduced in England.

In Brighton, schools make their own decisions on when to take inset days. Any plans agreed through the new proposals would not come in until the 2017-18 academic year.

If councillors agree to explore the options, proposals would be brought back to a future committee for talks before further consultation with parents, carers and schools.

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