HUNDREDS of Hyndburn parents will be unable to take their children on family holidays next Easter for the first time ever.
A change in the education system means that schools will remain open but council leader Peter Britcliffe claims many parents did not know about the change and has called on schools to deal “sympathetically” with any who have unwittingly booked holidays.
In the past, schools have had a two-week Easter holiday regardless of how early or late Easter has fallen.
But Lancashire County Council has recently adopted the standard schools holiday system, under which the traditional long Easter break is divided into two shorter holidays if Easter falls particularly late or particularly early, as it does next year.
This is the first time Easter has fallen very early since the council adopted the system.
The term, between 3 January and 4 April, will be broken by a half-term holiday from 18 to 22 February and a long weekend, including Good Friday and Easter Monday, on 21 to 24 March.
Councillor Britcliffe fears some parents may have been caught out if they have booked holidays for Easter, expecting their children to be off school for the traditional two weeks.
He said: “Many I have spoken to haven’t been aware of the changes and they have been quite surprised. As things stood before, the school holidays fitted in very well with parents’ holidays, as parents could have a longer holiday without taking a full week off work.”
A county council spokeswoman said that the split holiday should happen only twice every 10 years.
Parents should be aware that there would be two short holidays next year rather than one longer one, as schools had been told to inform parents of the dates no later than the end of the 2006-2007 school year.
Mark Jackson, head of The Hollins Technology College, said he would be “sympathetic” towards any parents who had been caught out
He said if any parents had already booked Easter holidays and wanted their children to miss school, they would be treated just the same as parents who wanted to take their children out of school at any other time of year.
He said: “Although we would never encourage parents to take their children out of school during term time, if they write to us with a valid reason we will consider their request very carefully and try to work with them to accommodate it.
“Particularly in cases like this, we wouldn’t come down too heavily on parents. Hopefully, parents have had enough notice for this not to be a problem next year, but if it is we will be sympathetic.”
Norden High School and Sports College head Robert Flood said: “We let parents know well in advance and from what I can gather they are really happy about it.
“The holiday companies have not picked up on it yet. Twelve months from now the holidays will fall during the main Easter period.”