Parents should lobby their schools to change their term dates rather than take their children out of school during term time if they want to avoid expensive holiday prices, Michael Gove has said.
The education secretary entered the debate around holiday companies raising their prices during school breaks, saying it was “wrong” for parents to remove their children in the middle of term.
His comments come as an e-petition has attracted more than 170,000 signatures raising concerns that holiday companies are “cashing in on school holidays”.
The issue is due to be debated by MPs in the Commons this afternoon and speaking on Sky News today, Mr Gove told parents that there was “no need to sacrifice your child’s education” to secure a cheaper holiday.
“Schools now have the freedom to change their term dates in order to allow students and families the opportunity to go on holiday at different times,” he said.
"There are schools, like the David Young Community Academy in Leeds, which have altered their term times in order to enable parents to take advantage of cut-price deals.
"My own view is that the holiday industry needs to look at itself in the mirror and ask: is it doing enough?
"But as far as schools are concerned, they have that flexibility, the coalition government has granted it to them and so parents do have the freedom to ask schools to be flexible and understanding in when they fix the term dates," he added.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills defended the holiday companies, pointing out that they face fierce competition for flights and hotel rooms during peak periods and insisting that it was "for business to decide the market worth of their products and to price accordingly".
The issue has been selected for debate in Westminster Hall at the House of Commons after an e-petition demanding "guilt-free family time" for parents secured 170,000 signatures on the Government's own website.
Created by Donna Thresher, the petition said: "Family time is so much more essential in the current working world, but so many people cannot afford holidays in school holidays".