Increase in truancy as families holiday during term time

Tightened household budgets are causing us to take all kinds of drastic measures to get by, and now more and more parents are taking trips during term time to combat the rising cost during the official school holidays.

The discovery comes as official figures reveal that term time holidays are the second most common reason for school absence after illness.

It appears parents are disregarding warnings of spot fines and even prison terms for those who condone truancy, in order to make holiday savings during the tough economic downturn.

According to a survey of 400 parents, conducted by travelsupermarket.com, 48% of mothers and fathers admit to taking their child out of lessons for a family trip. Almost a third said they took term time breaks to miss the expense of the peak holiday season, while around one in four insisted travel was an important part of their child's education.

According to the study, prices increase by up to 42% for a family of four taking a two-week trip to the Algarve during the school holidays.

Supply and demand
Bob Atkinson, a travel expert at the website, said: "Although some parents are understandably up in arms about the premiums they are forced to pay in order to take their children away during school holidays, it should be remembered that this really comes down to the basic principle of supply and demand. When more people want to get away, and there are a limited number of seats and hotel rooms available, prices will increase."

The Labour government introduced a system of fines seven years ago for parents who allow children to skip school. According to figures, more than 25,600 parents were fined in 2009/10 for taking their children out of school during term time. It represented a 23% rise in just 12 months and a doubling of the total over a four year period.

Unauthorised absense
But official data published by the Department for Education shows family holidays are still the second most common reason for pupil absence. Around a third of days missed due to holidays were not authorised by the child's school, the figures show.

Atkinson added: "My advice to parents considering taking their children out of school would be to firstly to seek permission from the school, secondly opt for taking time out at the end of the term rather than the beginning and finally, if you can select a holiday that offers clear educational benefit in terms of culture, language, history, art or skills, it may be a persuading factor for the school."
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