Attendance

Butlin’s accused of ‘undermining’ school absence fight

Holiday firm offers four-night 'showtime term-time midweek breaks'

Holiday firm offers four-night 'showtime term-time midweek breaks'

Exclusive

Butlin’s has been accused of “undermining” schools’ work to boost attendance by advertising “term-time breaks” as “great-value getaways” for families with a “hard-to-please teen on your hands”.

The holiday firm offers four-night “showtime term-time midweek breaks” from just £13 per person, much cheaper than rates during school holidays.

While some activities are aimed at pre-school youngsters – such as one featuring cartoon character Peppa Pig – others featuring Optimus Prime, a robot from Transformers, seem to be targeted at older children.

Posing as a parent, we asked the firm if the holidays were suitable for school-aged children. A customer care representative said that “all breaks are suitable for all ages”.

‘Undermines schools’

Ministers are pushing hard for schools to improve their attendance rates, which are much lower than before Covid. Persistent absence rates are nearly double those in 2019.

David Whitehead, chief executive of Our Community Multi Academy Trust in Kent, said schools were working hard to “combat non-attendance for all pupils – which takes time, resources and staffing capacity.

“They continue to work hard to make school ‘the place to be’ and encourage parents to take responsibility in getting their children in to learn, spend time with their friends and be part of the community.

“However, companies actively encouraging term-time breaks completely undermine this messaging and effort, and in turn can create more hostility and the breaking down of the home-school agreement on the ground.”

Butlin’s website advertises term-time breaks, stating: “Whether you’ve got an always-on-the-go tot or a hard-to-please teen on your hands (or both!), these great-value getaways are just the ticket when it comes to family fun.”

The page does cover weekend breaks as well as midweek stays. Some parts of England also have two-week half terms, meaning the breaks could fall in holidays.

‘It doesn’t ring of civic-mindedness’

But Warren Carratt, chief executive at Nexus MAT and adviser on the DfE’s attendance action alliance, said the “marketing of targeted holiday offers specific to term-time doesn’t ring of civic-mindedness, and risks creating a greater distance between families and education. 

“There are many signatories to the social contract, and those operating in the private sector shouldn’t be exempt from that duty.

Warren Carratt
Warren Carratt

Offering to alleviate the pressure on family finances in this way – at the cost of a child’s education – feels inescapably exploitative.”

According to the Butlin’s website, a “silver room” in Skegness starts from £69 for a four-night break in June. The same room during May half-term costs more than £299.

Parents can seek permission for an authorised holiday in term-time if there are “exceptional circumstances”.

Authorised holiday rates have stayed at 0.1 per cent for years but unauthorised absence rates rose from 0.4 to 0.5 per cent in 2022-23.

Fines of £60, or £120 if not paid within 21 days, can be issued for term-time holidays taken without permission. But saving on a term-time holiday often eclipses that cost.

‘Chance the fine’

Comments in a Butlin’s Skegness Facebook group include one parent saying they have been “naughty” by taking their child out of school for a holiday, or telling others to “chance the fine”.

Carratt said it would be “far more responsible for holiday companies and resorts to consider lowering their prices in the school holidays”.

Whitehead suggested he would like someone to “hold these companies to account”.

A Butlin’s spokesperson said: “We specifically call out term-time to avoid any confusion.”

The company aims to “help families enjoy a holiday at incredible value regardless of the Butlin’s break”.

But they added: “We’re always reviewing and updating our marketing material, so will take any feedback on-board for future content.”

Meanwhile, the main picture on Center Parcs’s “midweek breaks” page was of an adult and toddler, but the page also had pictures of what looked like school-aged children enjoying activities.

A spokesperson said they “absolutely do not encourage families to take their children out of school to visit us”. They have since replaced images of school-aged children.

A four-night stay at its Sherwood Forest “executive lodge” for two adults and one child costs £649 in mid-June. The same stay costs £1,399 during May-half term.

Breaks are “priced according to demand”, the spokesperson added.

Parkdean Resorts’ midweek breaks webpage invites you to “take your toddlers” on breaks for “couples or families looking to save money”.

Its marketing video appears to show school-aged children but a spokesperson said it does not encourage families to take children out of school.

Haven’s “midweek breaks” are advertised for “young families” with “tot-friendly activities”.

A Department for Education spokesperson said there are 175 days a year when pupils are not expected to be in school: “Holidays should be around school breaks to avoid taking children out of school during term-time.”

Latest education roles from

Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA)

Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA)

Platanos College

Teacher of Boys’ PE

Teacher of Boys’ PE

Platanos College

Head of Girls’ PE

Head of Girls’ PE

Platanos College

Art Teacher

Art Teacher

Platanos College

EA to the CEO & Senior Directors

EA to the CEO & Senior Directors

Haberdashers’ Academies Trust South

Head of Faculty (History and RS)

Head of Faculty (History and RS)

Ark Greenwich Free School

Sponsored posts

Sponsored post

How can we prepare learners for their future in an ever-changing world?

By focusing their curriculums on transferable skills, digital skills, and sustainability, schools and colleges can be confident that learners...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Inspiring Education Leaders for 10 Years

The 10th Inspiring Leadership Conference is to be held on 13 and 14 June 2024 at the ICC in...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Inspire creativity in your classroom. Sky Arts’ Access All Arts week is back!

Now in its third year, Access All Arts week is a nationwide celebration of creativity for primary schools (17-21...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Unleash the Power of Sport in your setting this summer! National School Sports Week is back!

Unleash the Power of Sport this summer with National School Sports Week powered by Monster Kickabout! From 17-23 June,...

SWAdvertorial

More from this theme

Attendance

Boosting attendance of ‘odd day’ absentees the ‘big prize’, says minister

The inside story of the government's latest drive to cut absences

Samantha Booth
Attendance

£2.3m absence mentoring pilot reaches just half of target

And just half of those reached achieved improved attendance

Freddie Whittaker
Attendance

ASCL president urges ‘change of tone’ as parental disputes drive absence

Politicians and commentators 'far too quick to take potshots at schools', says trust CEO John Camp

Freddie Whittaker
Attendance

One in four severely absent kids ‘rejected’ for social care support

New children's commissioner report calls for 'joined-up approach' on poor school attendance

Samantha Booth

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6 Comments

  1. Sharon

    What twaddle.
    There are many young people who don’t attend full time education for various reason who could hugely benefit from this.
    This kind of opportunity is often more valuable than seven hours in a classroom.
    Maybe DofE are trying to make some money by being dramatic, in the hope it would help compensate for some of their own failures.

  2. Beckie

    If holidays weren’t so expensive during half term, there wouldn’t be this problem! Holiday firms should be forced to lower prices during these times to make them more affordable. As a single parent, I can’t afford to take my son on holiday during half term (and I work full time!), so last year I did take him out of school for just over a week. He learnt about a different country and culture while we were away all while having quality time together.

  3. Steven

    Good on Butlins I had alot of time off school as a kid it did me no harm at all. In a great job well paid and I kept up absolutely no problem. Fair enough if your 15doing exams you need to be in but grades don’t determine what job you get as a lot of in fact millions of people know. It’s all about fining people to get money out out of them when times are hard. More goes on In Butlins in summer hols so they charge more but in terms time not every person going is in school and not as much going on. School heads and councils are selfish expecting kids to have no holidays away in the summer as parents cannot afford prices they get into debt and in a mess and end up in poverty because of the selfish councils and teachers because it’s all about being the best schools and results it’s not about the kids. They are in it for how they look as a school nothing else. Kids deserve a holiday and if that involves 2 weeks out of school hols as you can’t afford one in the summer holidays then so be it. If teachers and councils cared they wouldn’t have teacher strikes and training days which could be taken in the hols after all 6 weeks hols and the rest and bank hols about time you were realistic and cut down teachers holidays. My daughter has been in and out of hospital. Several weeks barely puts a week in because of illness and she’s fully caught up. Within a day of being back. Remember these idiots complaining about school like some parents wanting summer hols being 4 weeks and longer days well some adults can’t handle a full day at work and others wanting hols cut short, you didn’t mind when you benefited what needs to happen is parents having less alcohol and drugs and passing their kids onto others and teach them properly. TeCh proper things in school maths English people science history geography but who the hell cares about other languages when English is spoken in England. Not many need french or German Spanish etc go to night school for that. But more maths English pe lessons. Start doing more on kids in poverty and stop taking off the disabled and up pay to a minimum £15 an hour and people can then afford to go on hols in the summer instead of taking off those that can’t afford and low paid and disabled who can’t get a well paid job.

  4. How else would you expect it to be advertised? It’s a term time break. Plus, if companies didn’t trade during school holidays they would soon go bust causing further economic and employment issues in the supply chain. These blanket statements of ‘holding private companies to account’ show sometimes how out of touch individuals are with wider issues.

  5. Sarah louise

    Let’s get to real reason school admissions low. Kids are frightened to go school. Violence in schools are so bad. Children are fighting to cause damage . Schools haven’t got enough teachers. All I hear my daughter from llanwern high say Supply teachers, don’t know no anything about the lessons their teaching.
    English teachers, cant understand english, not even prounce names so simple.
    School also rewarding bad behaviour. Good children don’t get school trips, many times my daughter and friends miss out as they don’t miss behave.
    If I was starting out with a family best advice don’t stick them in the system, the generation, are confused, need metal help later on.
    Can’t do the basics, no morals, no manners. Mine where respectful, I have watch everything get wrecked by school.
    Both learnt more in lockdown, went back to school and fell behind.

  6. How about levying a charge on Butlin’s et al that represents the difference between the cost of term time and school holiday rates where it can be evidenced that school age children are attending the camps. This could then be paid for the work that schools have to do to help the child catch up.

    Let’s see of Billy Butlin is prepared to be ‘Naughty’.