The Great School Holiday Debate!

I’m going totally off piste this week. The great school holiday debate is something that always raises its head at this time of year both here and in the UK. Most schools in the UK are now back in school with the majority taking six weeks holiday. Here in Mallorca the private schools have gone back this week and the Spanish schools go back next week. Most of the schools here have been off since the end of the third week of June which by the time they go back means some children of which my two are included have been off for just over 11 weeks! 

So who is right and who is wrong here? 

There have been reports in the UK that some people think in the UK the summer holidays are in fact too long. In a Sky News Data poll, when asked about the duration of the annual break, which goes on for about six weeks from July to September, 43% of people said it was time to reduce it. Just 11% thought it should be made even longer, while 39% said no change was necessary. In fact some areas are already trialling spreading school holidays more evenly throughout the year. Those in favour of change argue that such a “long time” off school sets pupils back but others argue that the six-week holiday remains “very beneficial” as a way for children to “reset” after the busy academic year.

If six weeks is now being perceived as too long in the UK then surely now the 11 weeks over here is ridiculous. Most schools would have you believe that it’s too hot for the kids to be in class as late as July. So why do they open their doors as summer schools? Well the answer lies in the fact that for most parents me included who work in tourism, June to September is one of the busiest times and therefore summer school is a must but must also be paid for. There is no doubt that most parents are at their wits end come the end of the holidays. It is a relief to both the parents and in most cases to the kids when they do go back to school. 

Another crazy situation from the UK’s point of view is the crazy law of not being able to take your kids out of school in term time. Brought in by Michael Gove(remember him) the man that keeps backing the wrong horses. You end up with many children who will not have travelled abroad at all this summer because of the surge in flight prices that occur during peak holiday times. As a result many parents are now choosing to take their children out of school during term-time despite facing average fines of £60 per child per absence. This fine rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days.  However, in some cases families can be slapped with charges of up to £1,000 if they can’t give a reasonable excuse for their child missing school and can even be sentenced to prison time. Surely a parent can make up their mind whether it’s right to take their child out of a school on holiday? Yes on the advice of the teacher but if the child has a good attendance record and won’t fall behind then where is the harm? Visiting different countries, learning different cultures, trying different cuisines and learning different languages. The amount of people from the UK that tell me how lucky my kids are learning a different language and eating a Mediterranean diet then these kids are missing out. 

Holidays in August can cost up to £1,310 more than the same trip in June, with some trips being up to 126% more expensive during the school holidays. With prices sky-rocketing during July and August, families from are tempted to move their holiday plans to during term-time, contributing to up to 10 days of unauthorised, missed school per year. 

An average flight to Spain can cost £100 in the early summer months, however prices can jump to double this during August. This means for a family of four they can save around £400 by travelling outside of the peak times. With a fine being £60, this can often mean the flight saving outweighs the cost of the fine.  2013’s regulations put an end to parents being able to take children out of school without facing consequences, as fines were put in place to limit this from happening further. With the day after schools break up for summer holidays being the busiest day to fly of the whole year, the demand for flights pushes flight prices to heights that some families simply cannot afford.

Airlines are taking advantage of the seasonal constraints that families have in line with the school terms by marking certain popular holiday routes with a leisure profile resulting in higher fares and fluctuating prices for the times when families tend to book their holiday. With flights being prices according to who they think will be flying on each route, whether its families and leisure passengers or those flying for business. Airlines can use the monopoly that they have over families, to charge the highest possible price, leading to many families being priced out of travelling abroad in certain seasons.

Mind you this doesn’t just happen for those wanting to travel abroad though as those choosing a staycation will also suffer from increased prices. You try finding a cheap stay at say a Centre Parcs or Butlins during July and August. 

Living here in Mallorca some might say why am I worrying about the UK? But I have my hat in both rings to be honest. Firstly my kids definitely benefit from time off school but 11 weeks, for me no. Far better for that to be spread evenly throughout the year. Putting my work hat on in Pirates and I imagine for a lot of businesses here it’s now become feast or famine. Since the new law come in we can be doing 10 shows in 6 days in August but only 5 in May. Before that yes you would still be very busy at the height of the summer but in the low season you could still be doing 7 or 8 shows as there would still be a lot of families that could come over the course of the summer. That just doesn’t happen any more. A change would benefit everyone, families would be able to choose when they travel, airlines and tour operators could price accordingly and islands such as ours could see a more sustainable tourist season. 

Summing up I would scrap the 11 week holiday here and spread the weeks evenly throughout the year by including half term holidays. In the UK I would scrap the not being able to take children out of school term time and let the parents decide when its best to go away. And so ends my school rant, sorry to be serious this week. I’ll finish on an Irish butcher who is now a Guinness World Record holder after making the most sausages in a minute.

Dad-of-three Barry Crowe, from Cavan, smashed the previous record of 60 by putting together 78 sausages in just 60 seconds. There you go back to reality.

Real Mallorca were in action last night against Cadiz and after last weeks disappointing  1-0 defeat to Alcorcon they got back to winning ways. A last minute goal from Alex López gave them a much deserved 1-0 win. They also have a Copa Del Rey home game this coming Tuesday at 18.45 against Real Oviedo. 

England play Spain this evening in the new Nations League and both my Sons have games too so it’s a busy one.

Enjoy Your Weekend!

Richie presents the Radio One Mallorca Breakfast show Monday to Friday 07.30-11.00am on 93.8fm in Mallorca, online at www.radioonemallorca.com on mobile through their free App for IPhone, Android, The Tunein Radio App and on the Spanish TDT TV service. If you can’t hear him on the radio then you’ll find him working at Pirates Adventure the islands number one night out and every now and again he may make an understudy appearance! 

Feel free to email him at rprior@globobalear.com

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