Paying the Price
I heard a radio discussion the other day about a ski holiday firm, MountainBase, who are offering to pay the school fines for families who book with them for term time getaways. Actually, they are offering to reimburse those families, but it boils down to the same thing.
The radio discussion discussed whether it was right for them to do this. The company said it was. A headteacher said it was immoral. I confess to turning off the radio before I heard much more of the debate, since this particular programme strikes me most often as an audio version of the Daily Fail.
There are a few things to address in that argument. The first is to say that I think the government are being ridiculous in fining people for taking their child on holiday in term time. We don’t live in a police state; they ought not to be able to dictate these things.
The second is that I completely understand why holiday firms charge more in school holidays – it’s simple economics, supply and demand. Prices rise when demand goes up – have you ever noticed how the price of roses soars around Valentine’s Day? When a product or service is in exceptional demand, it costs more. When fewer people want it, it costs less. It’s not their fault. If they didn’t do it, they would not make enough money to stay in business, because there are not enough people going on holiday at off-peak times.
The third is that the headteacher represents a very narrow view of education – the idea that a child being out of school for a fortnight will not learn anything whilst relaxing with their family on holiday. They may not learn the same things as they would at school, but they still learn. To suggest that parents are putting their children’s future in jeopardy by removing them from school for a fortnight is ridiculous and unhelpful.
Gove, in an example of just how well he grasps these things, has suggested schools should change their holiday dates. He doesn’t seem to understand that it is the holiday dates that determine peak times – they don’t just coincide by chance.
What do you think? Is it wrong for the company to offer to pay the fines for families? Should the government try to overcome the economics of supply and demand and force holiday companies to stop charging more at peak times? (And if they did, wouldn’t the price just go up all year round? I can’t see it making holidays cheaper for anyone).
Love to read your thoughts!