Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Whispers from Westminster

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Whispers from Westminster

Article excerpt

Let's take a break from term-time holiday fines

Jonathan Simons writes weekly about policy and education

Imagine that you were an economics teacher (statistically, a few of you will be). You've set your class this task: you can purchase a service on one day for £888 or you can purchase it the following week for £1,550. If you buy it for the lower price, you also have to pay a fine of £120. Which do you do? This is a no-brainer - you purchase it on the first day, pay the fine, and still bank a huge saving.

Now imagine this saving applied to about 90 per cent of cases. Your class would conclude that this fine would have zero impact on shifting purchasing decisions.

So at the end of this half-term week, in which many families will have gone away, let's talk about fining parents who take holidays in term time. It doesn't work, does it?

The figures I've cited above are the prices for an identical stay at a UK holiday park for sequential weeks. The only difference is that the second one is in the summer holidays.

I get why schools are irritated when children aren't there to learn. I get that it's disruptive. And I get why the government thinks it's helping schools by imposing national fines, rather than leaving it to heads' discretion. But it doesn't work.

First, it doesn't change the financial calculation: 90 per cent of term-time holidays are still cheaper even with the fine (£60 per child per week). Even if the fine were doubled, it would be cheaper 14 per cent of the time. …

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