Subscribe to our free fortnightly newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news in edtech

Should schools stagger their term dates?

Louise Hodges from Travelzoo discusses regional staggering of holidays as a long-term solution for UK schools

Posted by Stephanie Broad | November 21, 2015 | People, policy, politics

It’s now two years since Michael Gove brought in his zero-tolerance approach to term-time holidays, and the fining policy has certainly been making waves - you only have to look at the recent media coverage of overturned fines and backlash from head teachers to see evidence of this. But is the policy working? There’s no denying that the number of fines are going up, but the snapshot we took just before the start of the summer holidays shows that the penalties aren’t deterring many parents.

Last week, MPs – geared with research from the Parents Union, Travelzoo and the Federation of Small Businesses – identified four main flaws in the current policy, which fines parents £60 per pupil for unauthorised absences: 

  • It implies that time out of school only has a negative impact on pupils: While the value of education was not underestimated, MPs raised the point that spending time together as a family and learning about new cultures can be wholly beneficial for children’s development and offers a valuable education alongside lessons taught in school.
  • It is applied inconsistently: There is mass confusion among head teachers about what constitutes an “exceptional circumstance”. The debate heard that 90% of teachers would welcome more advice and guidance on this from the government.
  • It undermines the role of the parents: Parents tend to be good judges of their children’s interests and so they should have the right to decide what is best for their children, along with head teachers, who have relationships with the parents and children.
  • It is having a negative impact on British tourism: Cornwall has seen an eight percent drop in visitors since the policy was announced, and the rule changes are costing Devon and Cornwall £87,000,000 in tourism revenue year on year, as the tourism trade becomes confined to the six-week summer-holiday period.

Many possible solutions were put forward by the MPs in attendance, most of which required a complete overhaul of the existing policy - yet staggering of holidays, a clause within the existing fining policy that enables head teachers to set their own terms dates, was overlooked.

Staggering, as the name suggests, refers to the process of phasing school holidays so not all schools in the UK have the same holiday dates. If summer holidays were staggered over, for example, a 10-week period, we believe that parents would be less inclined to take their children out of school for cheaper term-time holidays, and you, as a teacher, would also be able to benefit from cheaper travel deals.

Travelzoo recently brought together some key players in the travel industry, teaching groups and head teachers to discuss potential solutions to the current policy. From this meeting, a consensus emerged that an extended holiday period would lead to lower holiday costs for families and teachers. However, in order for staggering to be successful, it would need to be introduced regionally instead of school by school, so that parents with two children in the same borough do not find themselves juggling different term dates. So why aren’t more boroughs coming together to discuss staggering as a long-term solution?

Most teachers and head teachers don’t know enough about staggering and haven’t received any guidance on how to implement it in their schools. We carried out research with nearly 500 state school teachers in June this year, finding that over half (54%) of those questioned were not aware that staggering was an option for their school. The majority also agreed that the penalties were having a negative impact on teachers’ relationships with parents. It’s not rocket science – something has to change. We feel that staggering is the best way to resolve the current problem. It needs more investigation and teachers will need more support going forward, but we will continue to look into and raise awareness of this potential solution.

Louise Hodges, Travelzoo:


Subscribe to our free fortnightly newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news in edtech

Related stories

Five trends for education in 2019

Celebrate nutrition with a Great Roast Dinner

UK Construction Week reveals optimistic industry

Market place - view all

Hamworthy heating

Hamworthy Heating is a leading British commercial boiler manufacturer...


Award winning online banking: whether it's current accounts, credit...

Meru networks

Meru began with a vision that sooner rather than later most enterpr...