It's the time of year where the papers would normally be filled with those horror stories of parents being fined for taking their children out of school for a family trip to, well, anywhere really. This year we've had a slight reprieve due to the double whammy of the election & royal baby, but give it a few days now & we'll see photos of sad parents clutching their fine letters, and people spouting off that "it never did me any harm" (In the interests of full disclosure, I used to go on holiday in school time & have a degree, so yeah, it never did me any harm)
However, in these days of Callio and fixed penalty notices, as well as the obscene cost of childcare, family holidays during the school holidays are becoming a necessity. The cost of an extra 2 weeks' childcare negates any possible saving of going on holiday in June, at least around here.
I see complaints about the cost of going away in the school holidays everywhere. But honestly, it doesn't have to cost more, all it takes is a little forward planning. The holiday brochures for 2016 have just come out, and that means there are free and cheap child places available.
We've booked our summer 2016 holiday already, and were able to secure a free child space for Squeaky, in August at a hotel with all the children's activities she could desire (basically a chocolate party & mini-disco) without breaking the bank. To the extent that we've got a whole year before we have to actually pay for the holiday! One third off the price to go the week earlier when we couldn't get a free child space, and actually £150 cheaper than going before the schools break up, believe it or not.
We're lucky in the respect that we only have one child - there's usually a limit to the number of free child spaces available per booking (a good reason to go on holiday with the grandparents maybe?), and there is definitely a limit to the number of free child spaces available on any given flight. But even one free space in a family of 4 or 5 presents a significant saving. And the cost of childcare for 2 or 3 children? Well, if you haven't got family nearby to ease the burden, the summer break can be financially crippling. Childcare vouchers only go so far, and they rely on your childcare providers being registered - which not all are. Same goes for Tax Credits, 70% of childcare costs is a help, but not enough. The last choice is taking time off work - 5 weeks paid holiday per year doesn't meet the 6 weeks summer holidays, never mind the other 7 weeks of school holidays per year, sick days & last-minute inset days, unpaid leave can be the only way.
I'm not saying I agree with the term time holiday rules, but there is an equation to consider - is the (possibly) increased cost of the holiday offset by the other costs if you take time out from the school calendar - after all, school aren't going to take the children off our hands because we went away in June, are they? Much as Squeaky's teacher may say she'd happily keep her, I'm sure she doesn't really mean it.
What do you think?