MPs Debate School Holiday Prices

One of the largest online petitions, which generated more than 160,000 signatures, has led to MPs debating the increase in prices for holidays taken during school holidays.

For years the public has complained bitterly about the steep increase in school holiday prices - more than double in some cases - that tour operators and holiday companies charge.

The issue was brought to a climax last year when the Government announced it would give Head Teachers the right to fine parents who took their children out of school during term time for holidays.

The Facebook petition was orchestrated by Father of one, Paul Cookson, because he was ‘sick to death’ of ‘rip off’ holiday companies, upping their prices.

Mr Cookson posted a ‘School Holiday Rant’ on Facebook alongside a picture showing the difference in price of a Centreparcs villa, which was £699 during term time, but increased by £300 during the school holidays. He asked his 250 Facebook friends to share the post if they too had had enough.

The ‘rant’ was quickly ‘shared’ by tens of thousands, and went viral in days. Facebook users then became aware of an existing petition created by Mother of two, Donna Thresher last March, which had just 3,000 signatures. As a result, signatures on this petition escalated to 167,000 signatures all protesting about the price of summer holidays.

Consumer watchdog, Which? also stepped in to the discussions, publishing a report stating that ‘the savings made by taking children out of school far outweighed the “hefty” fines’.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills counter argued this, by issuing statement saying that it was ‘for businesses to decide the market worth of their products’, especially when supply and demand has such as impact on holiday sales during school holidays.

Once a campaign or petition generates more than 100,000 signatures, it must be considered for parliamentary debate, providing it is suggested by an MP, which it was: Liberal Democrat MP, John Hemming, for Birmingham Yardley.

As well as discussions over capping prices for school summer holidays, MPs also discussed other possible options that could make it easier for parents/carers to take their children away. For example, the suggestion by The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) to stagger school holidays – a similar scheme exists in Europe.

The discussion of the petition covered many issues, including:

  • Family time is so much more essential in the current working world, but so many people cannot afford holidays in school holidays
  • A break at home is not the same as getting away from it all
  • It's time to stop the holiday companies cashing in on school holidays and let parents have some guilt-free family time
  • Enforce action that caps the percentage increase on holiday prices in school holidays.