Under pressure Education Secretary Michael Gove turned down an invitation to see how the Great Yorkshire Show benefits young people but promised to take a look at the impact of his department’s strict new rules on school absences in a letter to show organisers.
Many school teachers were on strike over a pay dispute on what was the third day of this year’s Great Yorkshire Show, but Mr Gove declined an invite to attend from the Yorkshire Agricultural Society ahead of the event.
The Society made a written approach to the minister over concerns that schoolchildren would be denied the chance to visit the show, and others, as a result of the Absence from School for Exceptional Circumstances policy, which dictates that children can only be absent under exceptional circumstances such as bereavement, serious illness and family weddings.
The YAS offered Mr Gove the chance to attend the Harrogate show to see how educational the event is for schoolchildren, who have the chance to learn about where food comes from and caring for the environment.
Bill Cowling, the Great Yorkshire Show’s honorary director, said: “He did send us a letter back and he did say he would look at the situation in his department and that he was sorry that he couldn’t come.
“And that was what we are asking him for really.”
It was too early to be certain of what impact the rules had on the attendance of schoolchildren over the three days of the show, Mr Cowling said, but he was happy to declare the 156th show a success.
“I think it’s been a great show. I don’t know the attendance figures yet. The first day was a bit light but the second day looked like it was very good and I don’t know about today but people seem to have been enjoying themselves and that’s our aim.”
With the Tour de France brining people out in great numbers when it passed through the region just days before the opening day of the show last weekend, Mr Cowling speculated that it may have had an affect on first day visitor figures.
“I just wonder that if we were down on the first day, and I don’t know that is the case yet, whether people decided to leave it until later in the week.”
Either way the two events had been good for the area, Mr Cowling said: “We have brought a lot of people into the town, the Tour brought a lot of people, and I’m sure from what people have seen that they will be planning to come back. If this week hasn’t raised the profile of Harrogate, nothing will.
“We have been absolutely lucky because the weather forecast wasn’t so encouraging for the first day or today but it looks like we’ve got away with it. On the Tuesday we had an hour of the rain but people seemed to cope with it by going inside -good weather makes a huge difference to the show.”