Largest family and agricultural show Royal Welsh to lose £1m if proposed changes to the school year come in

The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society is strongly opposed to the proposal to amend the school term dates in Wales. These changes would create serious financial harm to the Royal Welsh Show, which takes place during the first week of the school summer holidays.

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.

The show is a highlight for many families and young people across Wales. As one of our major cultural festivals, 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

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 and major implications

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 our 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 would 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 our visitor surveys, we know that 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 our members are part of family groups. These may not be able to attend the show in the future should the changes come into effect.

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 our culture and the Welsh language

We are proud that the Royal Welsh Show is one of Wales’s leading national events in celebrating our unique culture and 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%. Therefore, there is a strong connection between the future of agriculture and the future of the language.

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

Next steps

We are in dialogue with the Welsh Government’s Minister for Education, Jeremy Miles MS, and we welcome the opportunity to discuss our concerns with the government in more detail.

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

How you can help

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

We urge all our members, volunteers, supporters, and stakeholders to submit a consultation response before 12th February 2024 via the Welsh Government website.

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