Term-time holiday fines rethink could decide 2015 election

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A manifesto pledge to stop fining parents who take their children out of school for holidays could have a decisive influence on next year’s UK General Election, reveals the World Travel Market 2014 Industry Report.

The report found that a commitment to scrapping the policy would influence almost a fifth of UK holidaymakers (18%) of respondents’ decision to vote for a political party.

Furthermore, an additional 21% said that they were not sure or undecided.

Only 61% of the sample said the issue would have no impact on their decision, meaning that nearly four in ten of the UK electorate will consider the issue before casting their vote.

The figures reflect the opinions of the entire nationally representative sample, including people who do not have children of school age.

Overall, the election is likely to be very close, according to the report. It found that the Conservatives on 28% have a narrow lead over Labour (26%) with UKIP on 15%.

The controversial policy of introducing fines for parents who take their children on holiday without the head teachers’ permission was introduced in September 2013. A BBC report this August found that 64,000 fines had been imposed within the first few months.

Holiday companies have been forced to defend peak pricing as a result, with Prime Minister David Cameron saying: “The industry sometimes seems to deliberately put up prices at holiday time.”

The report also found that one in three parents (33%) said that the rules were “strictly enforced” at their child’s school, with 45% admitting that “each case was dealt with on its own merits.”

However, 5% admitted that their children attended a school where the rule was not enforced.

Despite the threat of a fine, more than one-third of parents (37%) admitted to having taken their children away during term time.

Participants in the study who do not have children of a school age were also asked for their take on the law. One in five (20%) strongly agreed thinking that school is important with one in four (25%) strongly disagreeing saying that holidays are important. Overall, a net 8% were not in favour of the fines regime.

World Travel Market, Senior Director, Simon Press, said: “The controversy around term-time fines for parents is clearly an important issue on a national level, and our research shows that it is an issue which could have an impact on next year’s General Election.

“The introduction of term-time fines has proved very unpopular with parents who have taken their children out of school for a holiday to avoid paying peak-time summer holiday costs. So it is understandable parents could vote for a political party that vows to scrap the policy.”

The sample of more than 1,011 UK holidaymakers – who took a holiday of seven nights or more either in the UK or abroad in 2014 – was nationally representative and all respondents had taken at least one holiday of seven days or more over the past twelve months.