The proposed changes would see the summer school holidays reduced by one week, meaning schools would be open during the Royal Welsh Show.
In the open letter, signed by ASCL Cymru, FUW, GMB Wales & South West, NAHT Cymru, NASUWT Cymru, NEU Cymru, NFU Cymru, UCAC, Unison Cymru, RWAS and WAVA, the organisations expressed their ‘deep concerns’ at the decision of Welsh Government to engage in public consultation over the reform of the school year, when there has been no serious attempt to engage appropriately with the sectors and organisations that represent the many people across Wales who will be detrimentally affected by the recommendations that have been presented.
The letter states: “We believe that there is limited recent and relevant research that supports the recommendations and that they are based upon a long-held prejudice regarding the school summer break.”
In the letter, the organisations state that in the Welsh Government Commissioned ‘Beaufort Report’, the key findings state that ‘the majority of participants were content with the shape of the current school year’. The letter also states that the education unions are in complete agreement that the reform of the school year proposals are ‘unacceptable’.
The letter states that representatives from the tourist industry, the second largest employer in Wales, have also expressed their dismay at the formal consultation. It says: “The proposed change to the summer break will lead to some attractions closing and jobs being lost. Many attractions take over 45% of their entire annual income in the current summer holidays. The proposal to add a week to the October half term would be a disaster for many, especially those in the rural/mountain areas where the weather at that time of year can be grim.”
The letter also says that moving the school holidays would deny youngsters the opportunity to gain employment with many being denied this chance if the holiday periods are cut short.
Farming representatives also have concerns about the proposed reforms, arguing that many farming businesses that have diversified into the tourism sector benefit from a six-week peak season, were the weather is far more favourable for visitors to enjoy the countryside and Wales’ visitor attractions. The letter states: “There is a concern where there are ‘honey pot’ areas, confining the timeframe with an increased number of visitors to these parts, will impact on those running farming businesses in rural Wales causing disruption, especially in coastal areas of National Parks. The prospect of shorter days associated with an extended October half-term break will not be as enjoyable and could result in the loss of these visitors as holidays are taken abroad.”
Loss of revenue
Finally, the letter says that farmers are also concerned about the impact on the Royal Welsh Show. It states: “This is a wonderful vocational educational experience for the next generation of farmers, as well as being the one opportunity a year when many farming families are able to spend time together away from the farm. The RWAS has already publicly stated that schools remaining open during show week could lead to an estimated £1 million loss of revenue, thus endanger its future viability. 68% of show visitors attend as part of a family group. If it is term time in Wales during Royal Welsh Show week, young people and those working in schools will be denied the opportunity to attend the show legally with their families.” The letter also says that youngsters will be denied opportunities to compete in events.
The letter calls upon Welsh Government to withdraw its proposals to reform the school year with experts in education, tourism and agriculture having all argued strongly against them. It says: “We call upon Welsh Government to withdraw these proposals and redirect its energies to the real challenges that face Wales and to stop fighting unnecessary battles.”