Warning that businesses could close if changes made to school holidays

Banham Zoo marketing chief Martin Dupee for the Larking Gowen/EDP Business Tourism Survey.

Banham Zoo marketing chief Martin Dupee for the Larking Gowen/EDP Business Tourism Survey. - Credit: Archant © 2011

East Anglian tourism bosses have warned that businesses could close if a law to allow schools to axe the long summer holiday is given the green light.

Martin Dupée, director of the Zoological Society of East Anglia, which is behind Banham Zoo and Africa Alive, and Albert Jones, managing director of Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, have both put their names 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 that 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 sent to the House of Lords after it was given the green light by MPs, would give all schools across England freedom to dictate the shape of their academic year.

Former education minister, now environment secretary and Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said: 'The long six-week break has not always been in the best interest of children's education and working parents often speak of the challenges in securing suitable holidays, child care or even being able to do a day trip to a tourist attraction that is not bursting at the seams. Perhaps a staggered approach can be positive for everyone.'

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But in a letter to a national newspaper, 24 leisure leaders 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.'

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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,' they added.

Mr Dupee said that he believed that the move could even see some businesses close, adding that 40pc of his business was done in July and August.

'That is why I am more than happy to put my name to this. They do not seem to have done an economic study into the impact of this decision,' he said.

Benjie Cabbell-Manners, owner of Amazona Zoo, in Cromer, said that he would not be concerned about reducing the number of weeks in the summer if the two weeks they knock off were moved to dates in the year where the weather can still be warm, and families will take trips out.

'Adding extra time to the Christmas holidays would definitely impact us negatively because of the shorter days and colder weather,' he added.

Should the new law to allow schools to choose their school holidays be passed? Write, giving full contact details, to the Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

COMMENT – See page 30

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