South East Wales

Term-time holidays: Week of school break may be moved

Child on holiday Image copyright Getty Images

A week could be taken off school summer holidays in Cardiff and moved later in the year after the plan was backed by 72% of head teachers and governors.

The move could save parents hundreds of pounds on holidays as they would be able to go outside peak times.

At least six schools in Wales grouped their inset days into one week this year in a similar move.

But campaigners warned it was a "quick fix" and could fail to help parents struggling the most.

Cardiff council carried out an inquiry into whether it was feasible to move a week of holiday from the summer.

As part of this it asked head teachers and governors at schools in the area if they would back the move - 72 responded, with 72% of those backing the proposal.

The council said it would now decide if it should undertake formal consultation with a view to seeking Welsh Government approval to change the school term dates.

But as councils are urged to work together so holidays are at a similar time, any proposal from Cardiff could prompt other local authorities to look at taking similar action.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "Local authorities and governing bodies of schools retain the right to set term dates for their schools. However, they are now also under a duty to work together to ensure that those dates are the same or as similar as possible."

The plan is the latest attempt to make it easier for parents to afford the cost of taking their children on holiday, which can double during traditional school holiday weeks.

Image copyright Hev Ward
Image caption Hev Ward had previously taken her son out of school for a ski trip before asking for permission to take daughter

'Ski holiday fine'

Mother-of-three Hev Ward, 45, from Cardiff, took her daughter Izabelle, 11, out of primary school for five days last year to go skiing in Andorra, and was fined as a result.

She said: "Izabelle's attendance had been 97.4% and her grades were good, so I thought it wouldn't be a problem. But when I requested the week the head teacher said no.

"I got a fine through the post after we got home for £60. One of the other families we went with also had two 10-year-olds who were students at another local school. Neither of them were fined.

"It soured my relationship with the school, and whereas before I would volunteer and do stuff to help, after I felt like 'why should I volunteer if they aren't going to help me?'"

But mother-of-three Bethany Walpole-Wroe from campaign group let Children in Wales Have Holidays During Term Time said the move could lead to more problems than it solves.

She said: "It is a nice idea, and I welcome the fact that they are trying to do something to help parents and in the short term it might work, but sooner or later those holiday destinations close to Cardiff will cotton on and put their prices up.

"Instead we need head teachers making sensible decisions and using their discretion, rather than blanket bans being issued on all holiday during term-time."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some parents have tried to avoid high holiday prices by taking their children out of school but risk being fined

Head teachers can currently allow children to be taken out of school by their parents for up to 10 days at their discretion, but some have been refused permission and received fines.

At least six schools in Wales have tried to reduce absences by grouping together the five mandatory staff training days - or inset days - to give parents an extra week holiday during term time.

Aberbargoed Primary School in Caerphilly is one of these, and pupils will start their half-term holiday a week early on Friday.

Head teacher David Lewis said: "I did it to try and improve attendance and reduce term-time holidays by creating an additional week holiday.

"It gives parents the opportunity to start their holiday at a cheaper time.

"It has also helped us to organise our training into a full week, so it is beneficial to the teaching staff too."

Of the 112 junior school children at the school, 24 are going on holiday next week.

He added: "Some are going to Cyprus and abroad, but other are going to caravans in Porthcawl or somewhere more local, so it also benefits those people who can't afford to go abroad.

"One of our governors is going on holiday to American at the start of July as there is a £2,000 difference in cost, so you can't blame people for doing it, and the children learn from having those experiences."

Rob Williams, director of policy at teaching union NAHT Cymru, said he was not surprised head teachers were looking for ways to help parents get cheaper holidays.

He added: "One of the things heads are held to account over is the attendance of pupils at school, but many of the factors that affect that are beyond the control of parents and schools.

"Holiday costs seem to affect parents' decisions as to whether to take their children out during term-time and that is something we cannot do anything about.

"There is never going to be a neat answer, it needs pragmatic decisions from the local authority and Welsh Government that mitigate these challenges to parents and the school."

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