Let’s face it, kids don’t come cheap. So every saving helps. Which is why Catherine Barnett, head teacher of Eveswell Primary School in South Wales, is the object of much admiration right now.
Mrs Barnett’s idea to help parents save on their family holiday costs is genius so let’s hope other schools around the country follow suit.
It’s a little controversial — but none of the parents of her pupils will be complaining. Mrs Barnett has decided to schedule all five staff training days — known as “inset” days — during one week in June next year instead of spreading them throughout the year as is the common practice.
Because pupils don’t attend school on inset days, this allows families of the 485 Eveswell Primary School pupils to book cheaper summer holidays since the week falls before the official end of term. Which, as we all know, is when the airlines and holiday companies hike their prices up.
“There will be five training days for staff where the school is closed to pupils,” said Mrs Barnett, as reported in the Daily Express. “It has been decided to take these as one whole week with the hope that cheaper holidays can be booked and therefore holidays will not affect attendance at other times in the year.”
Taking pupils out of school for extended periods during term time — classed as an “unauthorised absence” — is frowned upon across the U.K. and, since September 2013, head teachers in England have only been permitted to grant time off during term time in “exceptional circumstances.” Before this parents were allowed to take their kids out of school for up to 10 days per academic year.
An increasing number of education authorities impose fines of £60 on parents who break these rules.
However, the threat of a fine appears to do little to deter parents, who would rather pay £60 than shell out hundreds of pounds more for a family holiday during the school summer break than they would at any other time of the year. In some cases holidays are £500 more expensive during the summer holidays.
“I am very happy,” said parent Kirsty Powles of Mrs Barnett’s decision. “I think it’s a fabulous idea. I just hope holiday companies don’t click on to it and put prices up.”
Last year a petition calling for price caps to stop holiday providers taking advantage of school holiday demand was unanimously rejected by MPs as not being a “practical solution.” So, unless more head teachers get their thinking caps on, it looks like pupils will continue to be taken out of school for their summer holiday — fine or no fine.