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Saturday, September 13, 2008

School's out, apparently

A travel company crashes, leaving thousands of holiday makers stranded all over the world. TV crews rush to the airports to record interviews with tearful ticket holders. Families traveling with children make particularly good telly. There turn out to be a surprising number of these and the kids are anything from primary age to teenagers. This is irregular, as head teachers will note, because this week is the first of the new school year when nobody's got an excuse. Even the most laggardly establishment has re-opened its doors and even the most demob-happy one hasn't yet broken up for half term.

The main reason people take their kids out of school during term time is to take advantage of off-peak holiday deals. Given the timing this week, that must mean that most of these kids have missed the beginning of term and were planning to turn up ten days late with a deep tan, complaining they'd been sidelined by the flu. It's a strangely emotive issue. Parents caught red-handed get indignant rather than apologetic, blaming holiday companies for taking advantage of the school calendar (and its mere thirteen week holiday "window") to profiteer at their expense; that or the local education authority or heads for their lack of understanding.

Given the number of package holiday companies and airlines that are going bust I think they may have overestimated how much fat there is in the holiday business. Last time there was a furore about this the DoE was forced to issue a statement saying "we have no legal powers to fix holiday price setting." What nobody does is blame themselves. Of course we did it once, with one child when she was quite young, for just a couple of days and with the tacit approval of the head. Doesn't make us any less guilty.