Should you take your child out of school for a family holiday? If you want to save money, the answer is a resounding yes.
A family of four could expect to pay about £3500 for a week at the Sani Resort in Greece during the summer holidays. Or, they could take the kids out of school and save about £1000. A converted barn in Devon could cost £700 out of season, or £1225 at peak times.
Of course, we know that bunking off school can disrupt our children’s education, but many of us are willing to play truant to save hundreds if not thousands of pounds. And we can always pack some homework with the beach towels.
Headteachers are also often sympathetic – and in some cases complicit. At the moment, a school can authorise an absence of up to ten days a year for each child, supposedly for illness, bereavement or extreme cold weather. But many heads are willing to stretch the rules and will also sanction term-time holidays.
If you cannot get permission, you can always bunk off anyway. Okay, you could be issued with a penalty notice and a fine of up to £100. But the law is not particularly strictly enforced and many parents are happy to take the risk. After all, they can save more than the fine with an off-peak holiday.
But for how much longer? The Government wants to tackle truancy by ending the distinction between authorised and unauthorised absence. In other words, you would not be allowed to take your child out of school for a holiday. Penalties for parents who flouted the rules would also be tougher.
A crackdown couldn’t come at a worse time for families who are struggling to make ends meet. If they cannot go on holiday during term time, some families will not go on holiday at all.
So perhaps the government should instead get tough with holiday companies that hike their prices during the school holidays. You never know, it might be a more popular – and more cost effective – solution to the truancy problem.
Naomi Caine was editor of The Sunday Times Money section for six years before she moved out of London to bring up a young family. She now juggles two children with a freelance career, and has written for a variety of publications, including MSN, Yahoo, The Times, The Sunday Times, Which? Money, Money Week and The Sunday Herald.