Term-time staggering powers being ignored, claims Travelzoo

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New powers giving head teachers the flexibility to set school holidays outside of periods of peak holiday pricing are being ignored, according to Travelzoo.

The deals publisher released the results of a survey of teachers as MPs were due to debate the controversial subject of term-time holidays yesterday (Monday).

YouGov research carried out on nearly 500 state school teachers suggests less than 1 in 20 (4%) state schools will be taking advantage of so-called staggering, a policy announced by former education secretary Michael Gove in 2013 at the same time as he introduced the new fines for truancy.

The rules, which were set to come into force in September, let individual heads change term-time dates without having to consult with central powers.

But more than half (54%) of teachers and heads surveyed as part of Travelzoo’s ‘Parent Trap’ study said they where not even aware of the changes – while nearly two-thirds (62%) say they oppose the idea.

Travelzoo is putting forward recommendations to investigate regional staggering of holidays to MPs as part of yesterday’s debate.

The study shows 58% of teachers feel heads and governors have not been given enough guidance on how to implement staggering, compared to just 3% who think they have, while exactly half of those who took part admit the new rules will likely give parents access to cheaper holidays.

Travelzoo European managing director, Richard Singer, who brought a number of travel companies together to discuss the idea of staggering, said: “Most of the travel companies we’ve spoken to agree staggering should be investigated further, as it could lead to more affordable holidays for state-school parents.

“However, we believe it would only work if holidays were set per region, and not per school.

“It’s obvious that not enough is been done to help schools understand how best to use it, and that’s been backed up by our meetings with head teachers and from our research.”

He added: “For UK holidays in particular we are confident costs could come down. 

“If, for example, the summer-holiday period were staggered to encompass a 10-week period rather than our current six weeks, this would mean tourist hotspots like Devon and Cornwall would have a bigger window of opportunity to welcome UK families.

“This in turn would have a dramatic effect on local businesses, which suffer from excess demand in July and August followed by bookings dropping off a cliff in September.

“Some of the major airlines have also told us that prices would drop if UK school holidays were staggered regionally, in the same way they are in France and Germany.

“We urge the government to help the education bodies and schools implement staggering in this way before we miss out on the biggest opportunity we have to fight the Parent Trap.”

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