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Selina Maycock

Rishi Sunak launches crackdown on ALL parents to cut the number of kids holidaying during term time, but families believe the issue ‘isn’t the parents’

Family going on holiday, mum and dad at the car with kids pulling suitcase.

All parents will be on the receiving end of tougher measures to reduce the number of children going on holiday during term time - but here’s why he’s focusing on the wrong thing.

Parents are being warned that this common pastime is being scientifically linked to abnormal behaviour in toddlers - but limiting screen time isn't the only thing for families to worry about. When it comes to the cost of raising a child in 2024, families are looking for how to save money on things like food by finding the cheapest supermarket or planning cheap family getaway - which often falls outside school holidays and lands in term times instead.

The popularity of choosing cheaper holidays that clash with school term times has risen, with the number of school children persistently absent in England having almost doubled in the last decade from 567,000 in 2010 to 894,444 in 2021.

As a result, the Government is planning a crackdown on families who take children out of school so they can enjoy a cheaper holiday and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has launched a new marketing campaign across England to warn parents against taking their children out of school during term-time.

The campaign, which has the strapline "moments matter, attendance counts", could include sending 'pre-emptive' text messages to parents in the hope of persuading them to keep their kids in school.

Speaking during a visit to Accrington Stanley FC, Mr Sunak said, "On school admissions, we have had this issue through Covid, they have not returned and that is not a good thing.

"There are lots of things we are doing to improve that - attendance hubs are something we have set up around the country to work with schools, talk to parents, that we think may need a bit of extra support, use text messaging and other things pre-emptively.

"It is really important that children are in schools, and getting the education they need."

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bridget Phillipson, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said in her latest speech, "We have a crisis of attendance in our schools and today that is the single biggest barrier to success for our children." She went on to address the findings by the Children's Commissioner who revealed more about the children who aren't turning up.

Bridget continued, "The numbers are, frankly, terrifying. Across England in autumn 2022, over one in five children were persistently absent. As she (Dame Rachel de Souza) rightly identified, these are crisis levels. Only five per cent of children who were severely absent in both Years 10 and 11 achieved at least five GCSEs, including English and maths."

She called on parents to take action, "Parents have responsibilities. One of the things we do as parents that has the biggest impact on our children is making sure they go to school. Not some days, or most days, but every day. Not because there are fines. Not because of the penalties. A far simpler, far more powerful reason. Not from fear, but from love. Not from cost, but from respect.

"Because it’s right. Because it's what’s best for the children we love. Because it’s the start they deserve. Because we know that high and rising standards, opportunities, come from being in school, not out of it." She stressed, "Cheaper holidays, birthday treats, not fancying it today, these are no excuses for missing school. Penalties must be part of the system, but they cannot be the answer alone."

And while Labour thinks penalties aren't the only answer to improving school attendance records, families also believe Rishi Sunak is focusing on the wrong thing. One parent said, "He needs to directly target those parents who deliberately let their children bunk off, not those whose kids are genuinely ill. Also, parents are going to continue to take kids out of school for holidays whilst the greedy holiday companies ramp up their school holiday prices."

Another parent said, "The issue isn't parents, if they didn't raise the prices that high and also stop child-free places in the school holidays then parents would take their children on holidays when they're supposed to. The fact you can easily save £1500 for a family of four for going a week later or earlier takes the Mick. Stop the profits or make teacher training days in a week block where parents can go on holiday term time at a cheap price."

A third person agreed and commented, "Perhaps the government should put a stop to the profiteering of the airline companies who double the price of holidays abroad for families when schools break up after term."

In other family news, here are seven surprisingly easy ways families can save money in 2024 without even trying and a major change to child benefit system could see new parents get their first payments within days rather than weeks.

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