Should parents be allowed to take their children on holiday during term time in order to avoid paying inflated prices?
Education Secretary Michael Gove has said categorically not - but unsurprisingly many parents disagree with him. High prices during school breaks are making family holidays unaffordable for many, leaving a large proportion of parents with no option but to take their children out of school during term time.
And fining them is not a deterrent, it seems. A recent poll from the Halifax revealed that two fifths of parents would prefer to risk paying a fine in order to take a term-time holiday, because it is still far cheaper.
Mr Gove argues that the solution for parents is to lobby schools to change term dates in order to allow families to go on holiday at different times. The coalition government has given them the flexibility to do this, but the majority of schools have yet to take advantage.
He praised the David Young Community Academy in Leeds, which he said has "altered term times in order to enable parents to take advantage of cut-price deals."
"If we are worried about people being hard-pressed and facing economic tough times, the answer to that is to make sure that our country as a whole is better-educated and more competitive, and it doesn't help anyone if you take your children out of school during term time."
Mr Gove was speaking as parliament prepared to debate a petition calling for action to stop holiday companies "cashing in" by ramping up prices during the school holidays. The hotly contested issue has been selected for debate in Westminster Hall at the House of Commons following an e-petition which went viral.
The petition's creator, Donna Thresher, says: "Family time is so much more essential in the current working world, but so many people cannot afford holidays in school holidays... Let parents have some guilt free family time!" Her outrage followed her discovery that there was a £600 difference between taking the holiday of her choice in term-time to taking it in the school-holidays.
Thousands of parents across the country are in agreement with Ms Thresher, and the petition already has 167,662 signatures, with this figure still rising.
Chief executive of national charity 4Children, Anne Longfield, said: "The hugely inflated prices during the school holidays cannot be justified... it's important that families are able to take a break from their daily anxieties and spend quality time together."
"I hope that this debate will bring down the sky-high prices which take holidays out of reach for many of the struggling families who need them most", Ms Longfield added.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills responded to the e-petition by defending the companies, pointing out that it was "for business to decide the market worth of their products and to price accordingly."
During peak periods, the high demand results in an obvious hiking of prices, in a bid to make a "reasonable profit" which makes up for "quiet periods", they argue.
ABTA, the Travel Association, has suggested that a solution to the problem would be to stagger school holidays by region. It pointed to other European countries who have successfully employed this technique, and added that 85 per cent of ABTA members supported this proposal.
Don't miss our article on how to have a cheap family holiday without annoying Michael Gove.
Should parents be allowed to take their children out of school during term time? Should companies reduce their prices? Give us your opinions below.
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