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Reducing Holidays in Term-time: LEA’s working in partnership with Travel Agents.
This document outlines examples of local practice in Local Education Authorities (LEA) working in partnership with travel agents in order to reduce the number of family holidays taken during term-time. It identifies a number of LEA‟s that have been working closely with Travel agencies which offer price reductions for those families taking holidays during the school holidays, it also explains the processes through which to claim these discounts in those authorities. KINGSTON UPON THAMES In February 2002 the PEWO for Kingston made contact with 34 local travel agents introduced them to the idea of the Family Discount Scheme and invited them to take part. Though none took up the project, subsequent follow up in which the PEWO telephoned 22 local travel agents and explained the benefits of the Family Discount Scheme in terms of generating free publicity and potential business for those travel agents willing to participate. Three companies agreed to participate in the project and it was launched on 30th May 2002. The companies were American Express Travel (5% Discount on selected tours), Travel-harbour (Discount on selected tours) and Superclubs Travel (10% Discount on all holidays). To claim discounts, the family must obtain a discount form from their child‟s school to confirm that the child is registered at school and that the family are residents in Kingston. When this form is presented to a participating travel agent they can then advise the family about the discount packages available. At the 3 month review, 157 families had taken part in the scheme with an approximate absence reduction of 1500 school days. Take up of the project has not been high in Kingston; the LEA has attributed this to the level of affluence in the area. However, due to the good coverage in local and national press (e.g. The Times, The Guardian, and The BBC) the scheme has helped to raise awareness among the general public about the problems caused by pupils‟ absence due to holidays taken in term-time. The LEA maintains contact with the travel agencies in order to ensure continuity and keep the profile of the project high. In the 2002 Autumn Term, the proportion of Kingston schools that had the highest rate of absence due to family holidays was reduced from 76% in 2000/01 to 61%. Since November 2002, two more travel agents have joined the scheme.
ROTHERHAM Ten travel agents in the Rotherham are participating in the scheme. They include Allied Travel (x3 branches), Global Travel (x2 branches), Thomas Cook (x2 branches), Dawson & Sanderson Ltd, Orlando Dream Travel and Travelcare. The discounts offered by the individual travel agents apply to all families with children attending school in the Rotherham area; they are available for all school holidays (e.g. half term, Christmas etc). In order to promote the scheme Rotherham LEA has produced: Letters to parents outlining the importance of taking holidays during the school breaks as opposed to term-time and the guidelines for granting permission for absence from school. Leaflets which explain why it is detrimental to a child‟s education if removed from school for the purpose of a holiday (e.g. “If your child has two weeks holiday in term time and a week off due to ill health they will have missed 7.7% of their education for that school year). The leaflets give the contact details of all travel agents involved. A form included on the back of the leaflet for parents to complete, which has to be signed by the school for verification that the child is a registered student in Rotherham. This is used as proof that the family is eligible for discounts at travel agents. To promote the scheme they have: Set up a poster campaign in places which highlight the discount schemes and where to find out further information on the discounts available. Made a commercial which features a travel agent advertising the discount scheme. It has sent out letters to the Head Teachers giving advice regarding holidays in term-time e.g. Have suggested a change of title for a “Holiday Request form” to a “Request for leave of Absence in Term Time”. In this letter, schools are also advised to include the rules regarding term time holidays in the school prospectus in order to avoid ambiguity.
SHEFFIELD The head of Attendance and Inclusion for Sheffield wrote to all travel agents in the area inviting them to take part in the scheme. It was promoted to the travel agents with the idea that if they agree to discounts on holidays booked for out of term time, the school would mention travel agents names in publicity relating to the scheme which would, in turn, generate a lot of business for them. Thirteen travel agents have currently participated in the scheme. Most of the participating travel agents offer 5-10% discount. The discounts are available to all families and apply to all school holidays. If a family wishes to participate in the scheme it must get signed authorisation from the school to confirm that the child is a Sheffield resident. It will be another year before the LEA will be able to determine whether the scheme has been successful in reducing the number of term-time holidays taken. Sunderland Sunderland council aims to improve Primary School attendance by offering holiday savings out of term time. The project is called „Every Schoolday Counts „ It is the first project in the North East that will offer families of Primary school children 10% of the cost of a holiday until 2005. The scheme was launched in partnership with Hays Travel over Sunderland‟s two weeks Easter Break this year. Local Radio station SUN FM and local DJ‟s also supported the scheme as listeners were encouraged to ring into „Mickey‟s Movie Madness‟ - a competition for the chance to win a family holiday to Disneyland Paris – during October half term! 30,000 leaflets were distributed amongst the schools in the North East. Each school reception area will receive an information poster that will also indicate how many children were missing from their school last year and how many teaching days this amounted to. Each child took home a holiday leaflet that included the 10% voucher and also a FREE calendar highlighting school holidays, important school tests, religious festivals and local events. The voucher would have to be authorised by the school before the discount could be approved. It is expected that this discount scheme will save the average family in Sunderland approximately £180 by taking their children away in the official 4
school holidays. It will benefit an estimated 23,109 Primary pupils and 16,000 families resulting in savings of nearly £3m!
Other LEAs A number of other LEAs such as Durham, Bury, Newcastle and Hounslow have developed campaigns including use of leaflets, posters, postcards and letters to parents explaining their policy on taking children to holiday during term time and the impact it would have on their education