East Anglia: Owner of Colchester Zoo teams up with man behind Africa Alive and Banham Zoo to fight proposals to shorten school summer holidays
East Anglian tourism bosses have warned of the “economic harm” a new law to allow schools to axe the long summer holiday could have on attractions in Suffolk.
Martin Dupée, director of Zoological Society of East Anglia, which is behind Africa Alive in Kessingland and Banham Zoo, has put his name to a letter calling for a proper assessment of the “ill-conceived” legislation.
Former education secretary Michael Gove claimed while in the post that the education system was being “handicapped” by a 19th-Century timetable and pupil performance dipped when they were off in July and August, leaving them at a disadvantage to students in other countries.
The Deregulation Bill, which has been voted through the House of Commons and will be examined by the House of Lords when they return after the summer break, would give all schools across England the freedom to dictate the shape of their academic year.
In a letter to a national Sunday newspaper, 24 bosses, which also included Dominique Tropeano, zoo director at Colchester Zoo, said: “The tourism industry relies on the summer months, and particularly the six-week school summer holiday period, for its success.
“The seasonal nature of many attractions, especially those outdoors, means that they close during periods of the year when it is uneconomical to open, then spend months treading water, trying to turn a profit.
“The Deregulation Bill, which is in its final stages in the House of Lords, contains clauses that permit school summer holidays to be shortened from six weeks to four. Michael Gove stated on numerous occasions that shortening the summer holiday period was his intention and those close to him admitted that this was being looked at.”
They added: “Many in the tourism industry survived the recession by the skin of their teeth. The economic harm provided for within the Bill is deeply worrying.
“We call on the Government to engage with the tourism industry, consult, and properly assess the impact of this ill-conceived legislation.”
Earlier this summer Waveney MP Peter Aldous wrote to the new education secretary Nicky Morgan reiterating his concerns about Government proposals to shorten summer holidays. It follows a speech he made during the third reading of the bill, when it was going through the House of Commons.
In a letter to the minister, he said: “There is a concern that this measure could have a significant adverse impact on the tourism industry, in particular on family seaside attractions”, adding that it should be recognised that “these businesses are important local employers, often clustered in coastal locations, where invariably the local economy faces greater challenges”.
He also said that allowing individual schools to set their own term time could mean different schools would have different holiday dates, causing difficulties for parents with children at different schools.
“Whilst I understand the reasoning behind the school holiday proposals in terms of achieving higher student attainment and giving greater autonomy to schools, it is vital that its impact on areas like Waveney that rely on tourism for its economic well-being are fully taken into account,” he added.
Mr Dupée said that he did 40% of his business in July and August.