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Disjointed government and the law of unintended consequences

24th March 2015

On 1st September 2013, under the direction of then Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove, a change was made to the Education Regulations which in effect withdrew the former head teachers’ discretion in being able to authorise holidays in term time and making this only possible in exceptional circumstances.

Giving Gove the benefit of the doubt, this change probably had good intentions!  It was intended to reduce absenteeism and to make life easier for head teachers, who had often found it hard to make rulings in the absence of clear guidance, but like so many policy changes it was ill thought through and has had huge repercussions.

For years tourism leaders across the UK have tried to extend their seasons away from just the summer months, and in so doing have created year round tourism jobs and more sustainable communities.  The Gove ruling has reversed this, forcing tourism businesses to generate their income in a shorter summer season, meaning peak prices have had to go up and off season options discounted yet further.

The net effect on Cornwall and Devon in 2014 was a £87 million loss of business – and we all know that lost business results in lost jobs and damage to the economy.

There’s also the social and family damage from the new policy.  Family holidays are good for you – leading to better family relations and child development, and often including educational aspects.  But tourism employees in seasonal areas are simply unable to go on holiday at peak times, meaning that thousands of tourism employees can no longer join their families on holiday.  What a loss!

And of course travel broadens the mind!  There is ample evidence that holidays ‘of the right kind’ – and I’m not suggesting this applies to 2 two weeks in Benidorm – are educational, giving children a wider experience of life and real-life examples they can apply in their learning.

The parents’ lobby group www.parentswantasay.co.uk has collected 225,000 signatures from parents calling for parents to have a say in their children’s education.  I am one of their supporters.  Are you?

Disjointed government and the law of unintended consequences