In term time holiday taking, Westminster Hall Debate and April 2017 Supreme Court finding

Since the briefing note below was first published in October 2015 events have moved on, the most significant with the Supreme Court finding of April 2017 which overturned the original Magistrates Court Rulings and subsequent higher court findings.

A summary note produced by David Bowden a former in-house legal adviser at VisitBritain explains the history and some of the potential implications.  Rather than clarifying the position the ruling may actually beg more questions than it answers and these now need to be addressed by Government.  This may represent a small window of opportunity to put the case for those working families, many employed within the visitor economy for whom this isn’t simply a financially driven choice to take family holidays in term time but one driven entirely by the nature of their and their partners employment:

2017 David Bowden Law Platt Outcome summary

(October 2015) You may have seen the news of a recent Magistrates Court ruling on in term holiday taking.  Because it was a Magistrates Court ruling  the jury is still out, if you will forgive the pun, as to how serious a legal precedent this has set.  A useful article covering some of the general issue and the specifics of the case, albeit for my liking rather too focused on the populist issues of cost and foreign holidays taking, can be accessed below:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schoolreport/34581078

Of more immediate importance is a Westminster Hall Debate on an e-petition relating to term-time leave from school for holiday – tabled by Steve Double MP being held on Monday 26th October 2015 4.30 – 7.30 PM. If you feel that the UK family holiday industry is being negatively impacted by the Government’s current stance on term time holiday taking then it would be useful if you would encourage your own MPs to attend and engage in this debate.

The views of the SW (England) Tourism Alliance who have been leading the tourism lobby on this issue is accessible below.  The paper includes  a series of 4 proposals for possible change: SW Tourism Alliance term time holiday paper

I am aware having trawled for views over the last year that a number of the public sector led destination management organisations, and especially those that are affiliated to authorities which are themselves local education authority  have had difficulty finding safe ground on these issue.  For me that fact that in 2014 there were now 14 million working  families in the Britain, up from 12 million in 1996 is key and a relatively uncontroversial avenue of approach.

It is preposterous, particularly given the swing from a traditional manufacturing based economy to a 24/7/365 service sector economy, to expect all 14 million families to be able to take at least one longer holiday (more than 4 days) of one or two weeks per year in effectively an average window of only 10 to 12 weeks in any 52 week year. The maths of it is complex but simply  doesn’t work!  If Government continue to get their way it means that a significant number of families who would wish and can afford to take a longer holiday of sorts, somewhere can’t.  The very thing that Government have berated the industry for; cost, which is a function of supply v demand, is actually made far worse by focusing all 14 million family’s holiday aspirations on to only an average 10 or 12 weeks for each school in any one year  The problem is then compounded by, for example, the many families that have several children at different schools, often with differing term dates. This along with a host of other factors only severs to narrow the window of opportunity for holiday taking even further.  What is actually required is a return to head teacher discretion and perhaps a greater focus on weeding out a few problem families, making fatuous request based on fatuous argument for in term time off and not the current blanket approach that creates problems for the majority of families who have genuine, occasional cause to seek time off in term time, in order to allow their family to have quality time together.  More a case of education and gentle encouragement, rather than a big brother and big stick approach?

If you wish to hone the arguments down further specifically to destinations,  then you should look no further than employment within our own industries.  Notwithstanding the fact that its difficult to get time off in school holiday periods in almost any employment, save for teaching, how are those that work in the tourism and visitor economy industries, or those  that own and operate the many thousands of small and micro tourism and visitor economy businesses to take their own family holidays if they now can’t occasional take them at the fringes of, or outside the peak periods for their own industry?  At the very least adding tourism and visitor economy industries to the list of permitted employments alongside for example, Service Personnel , is an ask of Government that most MPs representing popular destinations would I hope see as reasonable?

If you or your MPs need further information to support the forthcoming Westminster Hall Debate then please ask me: peter.hampson@btconnect.com

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