CEO of Visit Cornwall, Malcolm Bell, has suggested that schools should create an extra week of holiday each year by pooling their staff
The additional week would come in May or June each year as an alternative to term-time fines. He says it “would make a big difference to families and help the tourism industry reduce congestion at peak times”.
Fines for taking children out of school during term-time to go on holiday – which vary greatly in price between schools – are a divisive subject of debate, and Bell isn’t the first tourism heavyweight to call on the Government to scrap the fining policy. Alistair Handyside, chairman of the South West Tourism Alliance, told the Plymouth Herald “It is absolutely hogwash which is damaging the tourism industry in Devon and Cornwall.” Additionally, the Welsh Government recently released a report, surveying teachers and staff of local authorities. It found that the number of term-time family trips has increased since the fixed penalty notices were introduced in 2013, having the opposite effect to their intended purpose.
Bell mirrored this sentiment when he told the Plymouth Herald that the fines were a “naive, silly knee-jerk reaction that did not have the intended effect”, going on to add that “They created a problem for the tourism industry.
Whilst many advocate for the penalties and their intentions of increasing pupil attendance, one other key element of the debate is the cost of holidays. With prices for family trips increasing significantly during school holidays, families are left with a choice of paying penalties for term-time holidays versus premiums during peak travel times such as half-term or summer holidays.
Although some respondents in the Welsh Government report stated that a £60 fine was too low to encourage behaviour change and that they’d rather pay the fine than pay extra for the holiday, Malcolm Bell suggested that this was only the case for “well-off families who, if they are spending thousands of pounds on a holiday take a £200 fine as part of the cost.
“It stops poorer families from having a holiday.”