Open letter to Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and WelshLanguage, regarding the reform of the school year
A unique coalition of trade unions, Welsh tourism organisations, and
farming, are calling on the Welsh government to scrap its proposed
reform of the school year.
This proposed Government reform would reduce the number of weeks in
the school summer holidays from the present six weeks down to five.
The week taken from the summer holidays would be added to the
Autumn half term. However, the Welsh Governments long term aim
would be to further reduce the summer school holidays down to just four
The Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions state 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. To put a key summer week into an extra week
in the Autumn half term would mean a loss of tens of thousands of
pounds for many Welsh attractions. Furthermore, the past two Autumn
half terms have been plagued by massive storms leading to some
attractions being forced to close.
At a time when established attractions are closing down it is
unfathomable why no research has been done by the Government as to
the likely damage this proposal would do to tourism in Wales.
The tourist industry also employs many young people during the
summer break period. The current six-week period allows time to train
and properly engage with, youngsters, many of whom are experiencing
their first opportunity in the workplace. Many will be denied this
opportunity if the holiday periods are cut short by these proposals.
The Teaching Unions claim that a week taken from the crucial autumn
term and placed in the quieter post-examination period, is not supported
by research and would damage learning. The summer break is already
amongst the shortest in Europe. The educational reasons the Welsh
Government give for the reforms are not substantiated by research,
including the view that there is a detriment to children’s learning.
Countries that appear above Wales in the PISA league tables have
significantly longer summer breaks.
Farming representatives (NFU) also have concerns about the
proposed reform – arguing that many farming businesses that have
diversified into the tourism sector benefit from a six-week peak season
where the weather is far more favourable for visitors to enjoy the
countryside and Wales’ visitor attractions. Under the proposals, visitors
will be faced with limited time in the summer to enjoy Wales at its finest.
Organisers of the Royal Welsh Show claim that it could lose £1 million
a year if the change goes ahead. The show is the largest agricultural
event of its kind in Europe and, as such, affords Wales the opportunity of
The coalition is calling upon the Welsh Government to withdraw these
proposals and redirect its energies to the real challenges that face Wales and to stop fighting unnecessary battles.
A joint letter has been sent to Education Minister Jeremy Miles urging
this proposal to be withdrawn. The full letter is below.
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
Open letter to Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh
Language, regarding the reform of the school year
Copied to Welsh Government Cabinet
We write to you to express our deep concern at the decision of the Welsh
Government to engage in a 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. 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.
This proposal runs the risk of fixing a problem that does not exist, when there
is also little public appetite for such a change. 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’
findings-beaufort-research.pdf (gov.wales)). All of the education unions are in
complete agreement that the reform of the school year proposals are
unacceptable. The summer break is already amongst the shortest in Europe.
The educational reasons the Welsh Government give for the reforms are not
substantiated by research, including the view that there is a detriment to
children’s learning. Countries that appear above Wales in the PISA league
tables have significantly longer summer breaks. We would argue that the
proposed changes will actually do damage to secondary learners, as a week is
taken from the crucial autumn term and transferred to the quieter post-
examination period. Every secondary teacher knows that this is a serious error.
The education unions are also incredulous that, at a time when schools are
facing a crisis in funding, recruitment and pupil behaviour, the Welsh
Government should be so engaged in this entirely unnecessary distraction.
Representatives from the tourist industry, the second largest employer in
Wales, have also expressed their dismay at the formal consultation. 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
rural/mountainous areas where the weather at that time of year can be grim,
and would mean an 80%* reduction in revenue for that week if compared to
the one lost in the summer term. Last October, in half term, Wales endured a
named storm and many attractions had to close on the Thursday of that
week and did not reopen for the rest of the week. The tourist industry also
employs many young people during the summer break period. The current
six-week period allows time to train and properly engage with, youngsters,
many of whom are experiencing their first opportunity in the workplace.
Many will be denied this opportunity if the holiday periods are cut short by
Farming representatives also have concerns about the proposed reform –
arguing that many farming businesses that have diversified into the tourism
sector benefit from a six-week peak season where the weather is far more
favourable for visitors to enjoy the countryside and Wales’ visitor attractions.
Under the proposals, visitors will be faced with limited time in the summer to
enjoy Wales at its finest. There is also 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 or 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
Farmers are also concerned about the impact on the Royal Welsh Show. 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 spend time together away from the farm. The Royal Welsh
Agricultural Society (RWAS) has already publicly stated that schools
remaining open during show week could lead to an estimated £1 million loss
of revenue and thus endanger its future viability. Sixty-eight per cent 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. They will also be
denied the opportunity to compete in its events, and the show will be denied
its role in the education of Welsh youngsters, which is to help them develop
into rounded individuals who will contribute to Wales’ future prosperity. The
RWAS has stated that it does not wish to negatively impact other agricultural
shows and national events, such as the Eisteddfod, which follow the Royal
Welsh Show in the calendar by moving its own dates. Indeed, as many of
these events share the same contractors and vendors, it is unlikely that
moving show dates to accommodate a change in school holidays would be
viable. The show is the largest agricultural event of its kind in Europe and, as
such, affords Wales the opportunity of international attention. It embodies the
Welsh Government’s vision of a Wales which, as outlined in the Well-being of
Future Generations (Wales) Act, prospers in regards to its people, culture and
economy. Endangering the show’s future by having schools open during the
event also endangers Wales’s future prosperity.
We call upon the Welsh Government to withdraw its proposals to reform the
school year. Experts in education, tourism and agriculture have all argued
strongly against these proposals as the Welsh Government is not addressing
these concerns. We believe that these proposals do not come from relevant
and recent research and will not best support children in their learning. The
arguments against these proposals that we state in this letter are just a few of
many arguments that we have all repeated time and again to Welsh
Government officials, but no one is listening. Possibly of greater concern are
all the unintended consequences that will surface only after the damage is
done. We call upon the Welsh Government to withdraw these proposals and
redirect its energies to the real challenges that face Wales and to stop
fighting unnecessary battles.
- Figure from Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions