Autumn half-term break extended in city to help parents pay for holidays

Pupils in a seaside city are to get an extra week off school in the autumn to help hard-pressed parents hit by steep rises in holiday prices.

Brighton and Hove City Council has announced that the traditional week-long autumn half-term break will be doubled for state schools from October 16 2017.

Councillors hope tweaking the school holiday timetable will allow parents the flexibility to take cheaper breaks outside the expensive peak summer holiday period.

The high cost of holidays during school breaks often leaves families with the dilemma of whether to pay more, or take their child out of school and run the risk of a fine.

The issue was thrown into the spotlight after a father on the Isle of Wight refused to pay a fine for taking his six-year-old daughter out of school for a family trip to Florida.

Isle of Wight Council is to ask the Supreme Court for permission to appeal against a High Court judgment in favour of the father.

In Brighton and Hove, council chiefs said their changes will not cut the number of teaching days pupils receive. Instead, slight adjustments will be made to the start and finish of the three main terms.

Tom Bewick, chair of the authority's children, young people and skills committee, said: "Modern families come in all shapes and sizes and the reduction in the discretion available to headteachers is damaging.

"The introduction of a new week's holiday in term time is a positive step and I hope addresses the behaviour of travel companies who whack up prices."

Council bosses said the same holiday pattern will apply during the academic year 2018 to 2019 as a pilot arrangement before the changes will be reviewed.

The number of parents taken to court due to their child skipping school has almost doubled in the last five years, according to official figures published this month.

Government statistics also revealed that more than 150,000 fines were issued to mothers and fathers in 2014/15 for unauthorised absence - more than quadruple the numbers in 2010/11.

The figures come amid a continuing row over parents' rights to take their children out of school during term time.

Of the fines issued last year, 108,024 were paid within 21 days, a penalty of £60. This suggests that about £6.5 million was collected from these notices alone.

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