A coalition led by the Wales Association of Visitor Attractions, Welsh tourism organisations, trade unions 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.
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.
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.”