Government proposals to shorten the school summer holidays to help pupils catch up on lost learning have been dismissed by the trade as ‘unlikely’ to be put into action this year.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson has said ministers are considering changes to the schedule of the school year after the disruption caused by Covid-19 which could include longer days, a five-term year and shorter summer holidays.
The summer holidays is a critical period for travel sales, with even more pressure on businesses this year to capitalise on any easing of lockdown restrictions following the bookings downturn and travel ban during the pandemic.
But agents said they were not unduly concerned by the latest announcements, pointing out it would be difficult for the government to change the length of the summer 2021 break at such short notice.
Haslemere Travel owner Gemma Antrobus said: “I am not worried about this as I don’t think it will get past the unions and I also don’t think parents would send their kids back earlier [than September] to school.”
Niall Douglas, managing director, Full Circle Travel, believed the logistics of rolling out changes for this summer were “too great” unless it was a voluntary scheme, adding it was unlikely to be a barrier to families intent on having a summer holiday.
“I would have thought mental health and having fun would be the priority [for families],” he added.
Agents said clients had yet to raise the issue as a concern prior to booking holidays for the peak summer holiday period.
Paul Waters, director, Premier Travel, said: “At this stage we have not had any families mention this.”
Spires Travel manager Paul Knapper said it was already too late for summer bookings to be altered. He said: “If they [the government] did make any changes it would be very near impossible for many families to change their holiday dates, especially with many things in the UK already booked up.”
Agents said communication with the travel industry and clarification of any proposed changes would be vital should the government propose any major changes to school holidays.
Jacqui Cleaver, head of business development at Protected Trust Services, said: “As we stand this is purely an idea. Teaching unions, teachers themselves, families and multiple parties would have to agree to extended term time. There is very limited time until the summer holiday so to put this policy in place for summer 2021 would be quite the challenge.
“It is possible that a change to school terms could be put in place but I would be amazed if this happens pre-summer 2021.”
She added: “If this idea gains momentum, and could become a real change, then the Department for Education must communicate with the travel industry and offer clarity and transparency at the earliest possible point.”
The Advantage Travel Partnership agreed further clarity would be useful to avoid putting clients off booking summer holidays.
Leisure director Kelly Cookes said: “The lack of clarity may put people off booking for the summer holidays and if they have already made a booking, there may be questions from clients about what their options are.
“At this stage we obviously don’t have the answers, so some clarity on this would be helpful for the industry.”