‘Common sense says Great Yorkshire Show must go on for pupils’

Large crowds at the Great Yorkshire Show.
Large crowds at the Great Yorkshire Show.

Rural campaigners are calling for “common sense to prevail” in allowing schoolchildren to attend agricultural events like the Great Yorkshire Show.

Traditionally, many schools have turned a blind eye to pupils attending such shows, sanctioning it through ‘headteachers’ discretion’.

But now the Government is clamping down on school attendance, threatening parents with a £60 fine for unauthorised attendance. And as a result, many schools are putting an end to the practice.

“It’s a family tradition to bring children to events like the Yorkshire Show,” said the chief executive of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, Nigel Pulling, calling for a re-think.

“It’s a day out of school in an educational environment - not a two week holiday abroad. There’s a difference - we want headmasters to recognise that.

“Common sense should prevail. Children will benefit, educationally, from being allowed to attend.”

Traditionally, many schools have allowed children to attend the district’s big agricultural events, including the Great Yorkshire Show and the Nidderdale Show.

Many schools even organise class trips, or host teacher training days to allow pupils to attend. But a change in Government policy has meant parents must now prove ‘exceptional circumstances’ before taking their children out of school.

A North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) spokesman said: “From last September, schools have not been able by law to allow pupils to be absent from school during term time unless they receive an application in advance from a parent that the child lives with, and there are exceptional circumstances relating to the application.

“It is completely at the headteacher’s discretion to decide what are exceptional circumstances.”

Coun John Fort, President of Nidderdale Show, is to write to Nidderdale MP Julian Smith about the issue, calling on Education Secretary Michael Gove to make allowances for rural communities.

And now, agricultural show organisers are calling on headteachers to be sympathetic about and flexible about these ‘exceptional circumstances’.

“We’re not saying we disagree with the Government regulations on term-time holidays,” said Mr Pulling. “But there is a big difference between that and a day at an agricultural show. We would like schools to recognise that and be sympathetic and allow their children to come to the show. For a lot of families it’s a tradition.”