By Sarah Tawton
Michael Gove has told parents it is "wrong" to take children on holiday during term time.
The Education Secretary said families should not take their children out of school to take advantage of cheaper prices.
Instead, he said they should lobby their schools to change term dates so pupils can go on holiday at different times.
Mr Gove's comments came as MPs prepared to debate a petition calling for action to stop holiday companies "cashing in" by ramping up prices during school holidays.
'Many can't afford holidays in school holidays'
The document by Donna Thresher states: "Family time is so much more essential in the current working world, but so many people cannot afford holidays in school holidays.
"A break at home is not the same as getting away from it all where there isn't any house work or DIY to get done, instead focus is on family.
"It's time to stop the holiday companies cashing in on school holidays and let parents have some guilt-free family time!
"Enforce action that caps the percentage increase on holiday prices in school holidays."
The issue will be debated in the Commons after the petition secured 170,000 signatures on the government's website.
Holiday industry must 'look at itself in the mirror'
Mr Gove said: "It's wrong to take children out of school when they should be at school because it's important that we make sure that children learn.
"If we are worried about people being hard-pressed and facing economic tough times, the answer to that is to make sure that our country as a whole is better educated and more competitive.
"And it doesn't help anyone if you take your children out of school during term time."
But he also called on the holiday industry to "look at itself in the mirror" and ask whether it was doing enough to help customers.
Mr Gove told Sky News: "There's no need to sacrifice your child's education in order to secure a cheaper holiday.
"Schools now have the freedom to change their term dates in order to allow students and families the opportunity to go on holiday at different times.
"There are schools, like the David Young Community Academy in Leeds, which have altered their term times in order to enable parents to take advantage of cut-price deals.
"My own view is that the holiday industry needs to look at itself in the mirror and ask is it doing enough?
Schools can offer flexible term dates
"But as far as schools are concerned, they have that flexibility, the coalition government has granted it to them.
"And so parents do have the freedom to ask schools to be flexible and understanding in when they fix the term dates."
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills defended holiday firms, saying they face fierce competition for flights and hotel rooms during peak periods and should be able to price accordingly.
Anne Longfield, chief executive of the charity 4Children, said "hugely inflated" prices charged during the school holidays "cannot be justified".
But that taking children out of school during term time could put their education "at risk".
She added: "I hope that this debate will kick-start real action to bring down the sky high prices which take holidays out of reach for many of the struggling families who need them most."