Parents campaigning for the right to take their children out of school in term-time to go on holiday without being fined have won the backing of Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson.
Quality time spent by families on holiday, whether during term-time or not, was “invaluable,” he said on his Virgin blog page last week.
Children could learn more from travelling than they ever could in a classroom, he added
Sir Richard publicly supported Janice Skelcher, who was prosecuted for taking her children on holiday to Australia to ease the stress of caring for a dying relative and has petitioned MPs to overturn the government’s tightening up of the law governing school absences.
She was conditionally discharged and ordered to pay £400 costs by magistrates in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, after she and her husband refused to pay a fine for taking their children away.
Sir Richard said he “wholeheartedly supported Skelcher in her campaign to allow parents to take their kids on holiday during school term-time. It is really important that kids spend as much time travelling and learning as possible, from a young age.
“I echo her call for the government to give greater support and flexibility for parents to enable them to more effectively care for their children.”
He added: “If there is no other time when parents can afford – financially or time-wise – to take a holiday, they should not be punished for doing so during term.”
Sir Richard, who left school at 16, went on: “Some of my happiest memories are of childhood holidays – some during term-time, some not.
“If your holiday has to be in term-time, so be it – just ensure children get the chance to travel. They may well learn more than they ever could in a classroom.”
His blog was inundated with comments, including some from parents who asked him to lower Virgin flight prices during school holiday periods, when prices are at their peak. Skelcher posted a thank you to him for backing her stance, the Sunday Times reported.
Head teachers have been told to approve absences only in “exceptional circumstances” since last September.
More than 200,000 families have signed a petition against the changes and hundreds have defied the ban to take advantage of cheap holiday prices or to visit family overseas.
Meanwhile, Visit Devon chairman Carolyn Custerson called on the government to be challenged over the rules imposed by former education secretary Michael Gove.
“So far 2014 has been one of the toughest I can remember for tourism,” she said, pointing to the “negative media frenzy” over the closure of the Dawlish railway line due to flooding earlier in the year which had a big impact on bookings.
“But for the first time there has also been a change in family bookings because of Michael Gove’s changes and the fear of school fines, which has meant that occupancy levels have been down for May, June and early July,” Custerton disclosed.
“It’s a national issue and the government must be challenged on it.”
Custerson added: “The government’s school holiday changes have certainly affected businesses in Devon and we will have to see in future years, by changing their offering to attract pre-school children and single couples, whether or not tourism businesses can regain the ground they’ve lost this year.
“What is abundantly clear however, is that for a typical family, booking their summer holiday outside term-time, Devon is a great option coming in far cheaper than holidays in Spain, Turkey or America.”
Sourced from Travel Weekly