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Royal Welsh Show claim they will lose millions if changes to school year go ahead

11 Jan 2024 6 minute read
Royal Welsh Agricultural Show. Image: Robin Drayton

The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society is strongly opposed to proposals to amend school term dates in Wales which they say could cause it serious financial harm.

The Royal Welsh Show takes place during the first week of the school summer holidays, and there are concerns among its organisers, the farming community and attendees that its impacts will be wide and far reaching, with the Welsh language, businesses and rural communities hit hardest.

Under new proposals by the Welsh Government, the summer break could be reduced by one week, meaning schools would be open during the Royal Welsh Show.

Vital importance

The proposals, which are currently under consultation, could see a week being taken from the start of the summer break and added to the October break, so that staff and learners get more time to rest during the long autumn term.

Teachers and pupils will still get 13 weeks of break, but some will be moved so they happen when they provide the most benefit.

These changes would be made from September 2025, meaning schools would get a two-week break in October 2025 and a five-week summer break in 2026.

The show is a highlight for many families and young people across Wales. As one of Wales’ major cultural festivals, organisers say that “the school holidays should embrace events such as this as they are vitally important for our culture and the Welsh language”.

Almost a quarter of a million people visit the Royal Welsh Show annually and it is considered to be the largest agricultural show of its kind in Europe. The economic impact of the event is in excess of £40 million and there is approximately £10 million visitor spend during the event itself.

While the RWAS is not against the principle of modifying the school year and understands the sentiment behind the proposals, it is asking the government to reconsider their proposed dates so that major events such as the Royal Welsh Show are always in the summer holidays.

Impact on school children and staff

A spokesperson said: “We are extremely concerned about the impact these changes will have, including taking away the ability for young people, families, teachers, and school staff to attend the show which represents a large proportion of our visitor profile.

“In addition, thousands of children compete at the Royal Welsh Show each year, in both young farmer competitions and young handler and junior classes. This proposed change would remove the opportunity for young people to compete at the show, and to learn and showcase their skills.”

Financial loss

Preliminary calculations show that the changes would lead to a loss of income in excess of £1 million, from reduced gate sales, membership, and camping revenue. The changes would also lead to reduced attendance, affecting the trade for exhibitors and catering vendors, not to mention the wider economic impact on the several businesses who benefit from the event both regionally and nationally.

Furthermore, the proposal is expected to result in major practical implications. The Royal Welsh Show hires over 50 school buses for the park and ride facility each year. If schools remain open during the show week, these buses will not be available.

The Society also relies on almost 1,000 volunteers to stage the Royal Welsh Show each year, many of these are families and school teachers who would not be able to attend the show if these proposals come into effect.

Visitors and family attendance

The audience for the Royal Welsh Show extends far beyond the agricultural sector itself and attracts a wide spectrum of visitors from both urban and rural communities. Over two-thirds of those who visit the Royal Welsh Show do not work in agriculture.

According to visitor surveys,  68% of visitors attend the show with their family. As a charity, the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society represents members all over Wales and 70% of their members are part of family groups. These may not be able to attend the show in the future should the changes come into effect

The spokesperson continued: “Family attendance at the Royal Welsh Show is of utmost importance to the Society and we offer a range of children’s entertainment, competitions and activities, such as the sports arena, country pursuits area, and our new horticultural village. Not allowing families to attend the event would be a major blow to our values and ethos of the Society.”

Impact on culture and the Welsh language

According to census data, 43% of workers in the agricultural industry speak Welsh, a percentage well above the average within the general population of 19%.

Events such as the Royal Welsh Show are considered to be fundamentally important to promoting the industry and bridging the divide between urban and rural communities. As a charity, organisers are actively engaging more with the public, creating a better awareness of the importance and wider value of Welsh agriculture. They are said to be extremely concerned that these changes could harm the future success of the show, thus having a major long-term impact on Wales’ culture and the prosperity of the language.

Next steps

Organisers are in dialogue with the Welsh Government’s Minister for Education, Jeremy Miles MS, and have said that they welcome the opportunity to discuss concerns with the government in more detail.

Over the coming weeks, they will be collating evidence to support their objection to these proposals, and will be submitting a robust response to the consultation document.

The Welsh Government is currently seeking responses to the consultation on the reform of the school year.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “This is an opportunity to design a school calendar that works better for learners, teachers and staff, and gives everyone the best chance to thrive in school. We continue to engage with key stakeholders, like the Royal Welsh Show, and the public consultation offers everyone the opportunity to have their voice heard on the proposals.”

The team behind the Royal Welsh Show are urging members, volunteers, supporters, and stakeholders to submit a consultation response before 12th February 2024 via the Welsh Government website.


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Paul ap Gareth
Paul ap Gareth
1 month ago

Could they just push the Royal Welsh back a week so it still takes place in the first week of the holidays?

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul ap Gareth

Well spotted, but that’s far too simple a solution for people who just enjoy complaining that things don’t suit them.

PeterC
PeterC
1 month ago
Reply to  hdavies15

They are farmers, the world revolves around them. The idea of any change would be near impossible for them to consider

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  PeterC

They are not farmers, it’s mostly Show executives and professional people who sit on committees. Relatively few real farmers anywhere near the running of that show. Your prejudices are showing.

Iago Traferth
Iago Traferth
1 month ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Like Plaid

Karl
Karl
1 month ago

I don’t think a show run by people unable to ammend dates, should have a say in my childrens school timetable. It’s not like the show ground is packed out with events all year. Its often empty when I pass in summer.

Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
1 month ago

Ddim yn mynd ar gyfyl y lle nes iddynt ollwng y ‘brenhinol’ o’u teitl. A ffarmwr ydw i!

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
1 month ago
Reply to  Rhufawn Jones

Good point!

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