Summer holsProposals to change the school holiday system could cause a major headache for parents, with varied school holidays playing havoc with childcare and causing difficulties for families with children at different schools, internet site Netmums has said.

A survey carried out by the website and charity 4Children found that more than three quarters of UK parents (77 per cent) felt that changes to the school holiday dates would make it harder for those with children in more than one school. One of the biggest concerns was that schools could set their own timetables, meaning parents would potentially struggle to accommodate childcare.

But the survey also found that 34 per cent of parents would prefer holidays to be split more evenly throughout the year, ending the traditional six week summer break. Marginally more – 38 per cent – were happy with the current system and would not want it to change.

A further change to be implemented this year will see headteachers being unable to grant authorised absences from school. This will affect 44 per cent of parents who said in the survey that they take their child out of school during term time. In total, 62 per cent of parents said they disagree with the Government’s decision to stop headteachers from authorising authorised absences.

Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, said: “School holidays are an essential time for children to rest, recharge their batteries and spend quality time with their family. Whilst many working parents would breathe a sigh of relief at the demise of the six week summer break, which creates an immense childcare challenge, things could be set to get more unbearably complicated if different schools were to take different approaches.

“It will be essential that parents are regularly consulted and have a say in how their children’s holidays are organised. There is also a need to provide more childcare for parents during school holidays with an urgent need for schools to open their doors to local childcare providers to provide the childcare we know parents want. Parents struggle every year during the summer holidays to find affordable childcare and keep their child occupied, instead of having schools closed during the summer months, they can instead be used to provide much needed childcare during the holidays.”

Netmums’ Editor-in Chief, Cathy Ranson, said: “The Coalition Government promised to ‘make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe’, but this new move is family unfriendly. Allowing schools to set their own holiday dates will cause chaos for every family with children at different schools.

“While there may be a genuine need to look at spreading holidays more evenly throughout the year, holiday dates must be strictly co-ordinated so parents can plan childcare. It is already tough for parents to find employers with the willingness and flexibility to let them arrange adequate summer care at an affordable price, so spreading the number of weeks when kids could be off over summer will only drive more mums out of work.”