Last week Parliament debated a subject that is of great importance to local parents – the price of holidays.
Many people are understandably concerned by reports that the rules that set down whether school pupils can take holidays during term time are to be changed, to rule out all such holidays. Given the cost of peak time holidays parents are worried that such a change could leave them considerably out of pocket, whilst also altering the flexibility needed to accommodate unexpected family events and commitments.
My colleagues and I have been able to secure a very helpful clarification from the Minister that the rule change simply makes official an understanding that has previously been unwritten, namely that school heads should accept a request for a leave of absence in exceptional circumstances. As was the case previously, it is head teachers who continue to have the final say over whether a holiday can be taken in term time.
I have now looked further into the situation locally and am assured that head teachers in Cornwall are displaying good Cornish common sense in using these discretionary powers.
One particularly encouraging example was relayed to me by my office manager, who has a child at a local school. He and his partner approached their child’s head teacher to request that the school collate all staff training days, normally scattered as one-off day offs throughout the school year, into one week on the end of a holiday or half term. The head teacher agreed to this request and has effectively created a further ‘holiday week’ at the end of the May half term. Holiday prices during this further week are significantly lower than those charged during the half term week.
I hope that other head teachers will take this sensible approach to holiday requests, making particular exceptions for children whose parents work in the tourism sector.
Of course here in Cornwall we do holidays rather better than anywhere else in the UK. I am pleased that the Government is stepping up its efforts to show that Cornwall is open for business and is preparing a campaign, supported by a £2 million fund, to help local businesses promote the Duchy as a tourist destination.
Having pressed Ministers to instigate and fund such a campaign I am delighted that they are working up this new effort to market Cornwall, hopefully to coincide with the re-opening of the Dawlish line. Our tourism businesses, ably supported by Visit Cornwall, do a great job of promoting the wonderful experiences they offer and I hope that with this extra push from the Government we can pave the way for a truly memorable summer season.
In the meantime I also continue to push for robust measures to ensure the future reliance of Cornwall’s transport links, whether road, rail or flight. A £31 million rail resilience project for the South West and a £163 million increase in the budget local authorities are given to fund road repairs should help, but there is more to do.