COMMENT: We need a little common sense and flexibility

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THE issue of airlines and holiday companies adding huge mark-ups during school holidays is not going to go away any time soon.

It is easy to understand the anger of many parents when prices as much as quadruple in some cases. They feel as though they are being ripped-off – and being penalised for doing the right thing by keeping their children in school.

Taking your children out of school a week or two early can easily save a family of four a couple of grand on their summer holiday. For some families that is the difference between going away and not going away together. For those with parents or grandparents overseas, it can mean seeing their loved ones less often.

The defenders of the holiday firms put it all down to supply and demand, which is a little too simplistic. The Government regularly acts to regulate markets in various ways, so why not to tackle this problem? A legal cap on school holiday price rises, of perhaps 50 per cent, has been suggested. That seems reasonable, but the consequences are a little unpredictable. It might well lead to price rises at offpeak times more than cuts during holidays in order to protect the industry’s main source of profit.

One interesting suggestion has been to cut Air Passenger Duty during school holidays to help keep costs down. There is no guarantee, though, that the airlines who pay the tax would pass the cut on to passengers. Staggered school holidays are another idea, but they also cause problems for families with children at different schools, or where a parent teaches, say in Edinburgh, while the children go to school in perhaps Midlothian.

The best answer is probably the simplest one. A little common sense and flexibility. Headteachers must use their discretion in enforcing rules about term-time absence. The majority of families who follow the rules throughout the year deserve a little leeway now and then.