Major city council plans overhaul of school calendar to let families take cheap holidays

Schools in Brighton could see their summer holiday shortened and an extra week’s break introduced during the school year, in an effort to let families take cheaper holidays.

Brighton and Hove City Council is proposing an overhaul of the school calendar that would give pupils time off when those in the rest of England are at school, allowing families – and teachers – to go on holiday without facing the inflated costs of travelling during school holidays.

The proposals include cutting the six-week summer holiday and creating a “standalone” week’s holiday when going away is less expensive.

Inset days could also be coordinated into a block to create a long weekend or even a full week’s break at a time when holidays are cheaper.

The council’s children, young people and skills committee will consider on 11 January whether to discuss the options with the city’s schools.

Committee chairman Tom Bewick said: “If there is something we can do to offer lower-income families, in particular, the chance to take holidays that would otherwise be unaffordable then I think it’s worth exploring.

“Being able to take a cheap family holiday in March, for example, would make a huge difference to thousands of local people, including, of course, our teachers.

“The long summer holiday goes back to the 19th century when children helped to bring in the harvest. It’s time to take a fresh look at this and try and find a consensus for what works best for families in the 21st century.”

It comes as growing numbers of parents face fines for taking their children out of school for holidays during term time.

TES reported in October that the number of fines given to parents for taking their children on holiday in term time had almost trebled in two years.

Figures obtained by the Press Association showed that in the last academic year alone, at least 50,414 penalty notices were issued due to children being taken out of lessons for trips.

This was up 25 per cent on the year before, when at least 40,218 penalties were given out, and up 173 per cent from the 18,484 fines handed out by local authorities in 2012-13. These figures cover 71 councils that provided data for all three years.

The hikes came amid a government crackdown on absence, including strict new rules on term-time holidays introduced in England.

In Brighton, schools make their own decisions on when to take inset days. Any plans agreed through the new proposals would not come in until the 2017-18 academic year.

If councillors agree to explore the options, proposals would be brought back to a future committee for talks before further consultation with parents, carers and schools.

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