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Children across the Channel won't carry on camping

In France, there is a long-standing cure for summer holiday boredom: packing off the youngsters to a colonie de vacances, or summer camp. The non-stop programmes of activities, from going on bicycle rides and woodland treks to putting on plays, are something of a French national institution. But this year they have come under threat from modern notions of employees' rights.

New rules remove the voluntary status of staff, imposing precise entitlements for time off. About 300,000 people are affected, according to Bernard Kammerer, an organiser of children's holidays, and Yannick Trigance, a conseiller regional who is close to President Francois Hollande on educational matters. The impact, they argued in an article for Le Monde newspaper, will be dramatic: higher costs for parents, lower attendance, camp closures and lay-offs.

The colonies "offer a powerful experience for children, often those who never or only rarely have holidays," says Monsieur Trigance. "It opens the world for them; they see different places and learn to live in groups by the sea or in the mountains or countryside without parents present. The chance to learn in sporting and cultural activities adds an educational dimension."

Attendance at camps has been falling but had stabilised at about 1.1 million each summer, according to the most recent figures, for 2010.

But one effect of the new protections for camp staff may be that the number of French children denied any holiday at all each year, already estimated at 3 million, will go on rising.

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