Quality Family Time

I had a lovely email this morning from Center Parcs. On the subject of loveliness, we have, in fact had some lovely holidays there. My parents in law have very kindly taken us there for a couple of short breaks in the past. And we had a lovely time.

We’ve been back once or twice under our own steam. They are the epitome of the easy family holiday: close at hand, everything laid on, plenty of space for the children to explore without the constraints that they have at home. We’ve always more or less found bargains, never been able to afford the activities, but enjoyed the swimming and the surroundings and the chance to be together. Lovely (you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?)

They’re also excellent at marketing, and ensuring that the possibility of the next break is always on your mind. On a grey, busy January Friday morning, with various problems hanging over our heads, the email today struck a chord.

Escape to the forest with a Center Parcs short break, choose from a wide range of lodges at one of our five UK Villages.  Enjoy quality time together, from exciting active days or cosy evenings by the fire. A Center Parcs break can be whatever you want it to be – Your family. Your time. Book by February 4th from £279′

I duly clicked through. We could, in fact, have had a midweek break in a 4 bedroom lodge at the end of the month for £279. Excellent value. Unfortunately, we have two school age children and I’m a school governor. Taking them out in term time isn’t possible any more, though in the interests of scrupulous honesty, I should add that we didn’t do it before, either.

No problem, I thought, I’ll look later in the year. Easter, perhaps. A bit more expensive in the middle of the month, but £359 for four nights for five of us is ok. Hang on, though. That’s still term time. In the holidays, two weeks later? Oh. That will be £1349, apparently. For the same property, the same number of nights, the same everything, really (except, presumably, the number of school-age children barrelling around the place.)

Storm in an Emma Bridgewater teacup? Possibly. After all, a Center Parcs holiday even at the cheapest of available prices is beyond many, not a basic human right. Nor can I really blame Center Parcs, who presumably would argue that off-peak prices have always been subsidised by those coming in school holidays, for making additional hay in the Government-sent sunshine of the ban on time out of school in term time.

What grates is that this is just another example of the lip-service paid to the importance of family. Holidays are a luxury, of course they are, but being able to afford some time away together should be a reasonably accessible luxury for most, especially when work outside of the home is being pushed as the only acceptable model for parents.

I do understand the importance of children not missing school and the disruption that lots of absences can cause the classroom teacher. The new ban, though, just transfers much of that disruption and aggro to head teachers, who are put in an adversarial position vis-á-vis parents. It in no way helps families who could only ever take their holidays outside school breaks, for whatever reason. How much more “family friendly” would investigation into anti-competitive practices by holiday companies have been, or an examination of what could be done for work places where parents’ annual leave is restricted such that school holidays create nothing more than a headache of additional childcare.

Holidays should constitute quality family time. Not time together for “Quality” families able to afford it.


9 thoughts on “Quality Family Time

  1. Am in total agreement. why as parents to we collectively accept this – why aren’t we marching on Thomas Cook Head office, decapitating Thompson the holiday mascot, setting up protest camps at Centre Parcs. While, I note Jen’s comment above – great if your school is flexible, or your local authority – but many are fining parents for doing just what she plans to do. With one family taking it as far as court and losing – it’s not an option open to everyone and once again it seems it’s a postcode lottery. Some do, some don’t. RUBBISH underlined and bold.

    1. My parents were teachers, so we grew up lamenting the price differences even then – only consolation was when we did go away in a tent, we could stay for longer! I think that sense of guilt is partly why we never took the children out in term time anyway.

  2. I can’t begin to put into words just how much these two factors make me angry. The over pricing in school holidays has always annoyed me. But this new rule from on high….well let’s just say there is enough steam coming out of my ears to supply a row of steam rooms! I am so grateful that my children are all now beyond the school system. We always did a mixture of holidays within and without the school holidays. I felt strongly that there was more to education than school and that the experiences that my children had on holiday and out of school time were just as valuable…to me it was all about balance. I suspect if faced with the situation that parents are in now I may well have taken drastic action.

  3. Nice piece. I’m a governor too, added peer pressure to conform. However, we’re an Academy now, and are exploring the possibility of having a 4 week summer and stretching other holidays, which might be better for learning but also holidays.

    1. Thanks for your comment. That’s interesting, I’ve heard other schools considering that (and longer half terms) too. It would make sense in a lot of ways (and perhaps the knock-on effect would be to cut holiday prices)

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