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Coalition of tourism bosses and unions call on Welsh Government to scrap school year reform

06 Feb 2024 4 minute read
An empty Welsh beach.

Emily Price

A coalition of trade unions, Welsh tourism organisations, and farming unions are calling on the Welsh Government to scrap its proposed reform of the school year.

The changes would see the number of weeks in the school summer holiday reduced from six to five – with a week taken from the summer holidays added to the autumn half term.

There is a possibility the Welsh Government could further reduce the summer school holiday to four weeks under the new plans.

The Welsh Government has claimed the change would benefit disadvantaged pupils and boost the wellbeing of students and teachers.

Damage

The UK summer holiday is already amongst the shortest in Europe and countries that appear above Wales in the PISA league tables have a significantly longer break during the summer.

Education unions have argued there are more pressing issues faced by schools at present and say that a week taken from the autumn term and placed in the quieter post-examination period, is not supported by research and would damage learning.

The Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions warn that many attractions take over 45% of their entire yearly income during the school summer holidays, and any loss of summer revenue would lead to closures and job losses.

Fears have been raised that putting a key summer week into the October half term would mean a loss of tens of thousands of pounds for many Welsh attractions.

The past two autumn half terms have been plagued by storms leading to some
attractions being forced to close.

Tourism bosses say many young people are employed by businesses during the summer break and the current six-week period allows time to train and engage with youngsters.

Farming

The National Farming Union has argued that farming businesses that have diversified into the tourism sector benefit from a six-week peak season where the weather is more favourable for visitors to Welsh attractions.

Organisers of the Royal Welsh Show say that it could lose £1 million a year if the change goes ahead.

A joint letter has been sent to Education Minister Jeremy Miles urging the school year reform proposal to be withdrawn.

The 11 organisations involved include the NASUWT Cymru, NEU Cymru, Unison Cymru/Wales, GMB Wales, Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions, the National Farmers Union of Wales, the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society.

Ashford Price, Chairman of Dan Yr Ogof, The National Showcaves Centre for Wales said: “The situation really is quite desperate not only for tourism but also for teaching, plus the Royal Welsh Show and the farmers of Wales.

“This idea of dropping the number of weeks in the summer down shouldn’t go ahead because the damage it will do to huge sections of the Welsh economy and also staff working in schools will have a devastating effect.

“We are calling on the education minister to drop the idea so we can get on and not have to spend our time fire fighting.”

Shadow Minister for Culture, Tourism & Sport, Tom Giffard warned the new measures would be damaging to the trourism sector in Wales.

He said: “It’s clear that the Welsh Government’s plans to meddle with the school year are both unpopular and deeply damaging to our economy. The tourism sector in particular relies on the six-week school holiday to see them through the winter months.

“The Welsh Government’s school year changes are part of a long list of damaging measures inflicted upon the tourism sector, sitting alongside the likes of their toxic tourism tax and changes to self-catering holiday let rules.

“One in seven jobs in Wales relies on the tourism economy, it’s high time the Welsh Government supported the sector, rather than continue to punish it.”

Learners

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “This is an opportunity to design a school calendar that works better for teachers, staff and, most importantly, learners – providing everyone with the best conditions in which to thrive.

“We continue to engage with key stakeholders, and the public consultation – which closes on February 12th – offers everyone the opportunity to have their voice heard on the proposals.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
22 days ago

When governments are faced with seemingly unsurmountable problems they tend to look for other things to mess up…

Iago Traferth
Iago Traferth
22 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Is that a quote or an original statement? If it is original it is impressive!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
22 days ago
Reply to  Iago Traferth

I usually credit where needed but I believe I made it up in that grouping of words but it is also a truism and therefor out of copyright. The ‘joy’ of this site is that it keeps us ‘hen oed’ on our toes…

What we need is a good cartoonist, perhaps Steve Bell has some Welsh ancestry…diolch…

Richard E
Richard E
22 days ago

Sounds like another ‘ crusade’ for Janet ( 20mph U turn ) Finch Saunders – friend of the hotel “ industry “ and holiday cottages.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
21 days ago

Its not empty, that’s how they really look…

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