Daniel Davies,David Deans

BBC Mark DrakefordBBC

Mark Drakeford was visibly angry as he spoke in the Senedd on Tuesday

Mark Drakeford has dramatically criticised the Welsh government’s decision to scrap changes to the school holiday.

The Welsh government earlier announced that plans to cut the summer school holiday had been shelved until the next Senedd election.

Visibly angry and addressing his remarks at Education Secretary Lynne Neagle, he said he regretted the “political damage” the decision would cause to Wales.

In response she told the former first minister: “You cannot have a consultation and then just ignore that consultation.”

It comes a day before his successor, Vaughan Gething, will face a crucial no confidence vote in the Senedd.

Earlier he said he expected to win it.

“Let’s be clear that what we’ve heard this afternoon is the abandonment of a manifesto commitment made by the Labour Party at the last election,” said Mr Drakeford.

“The minister shouldn’t seek to shelter behind semantics in saying to me that this was a commitment to explore reform of the school day.”

It is a significant intervention – and Mr Drakeford’s first since he handed over the reins.

It follows weeks of simmering discontent within Labour over donations to Mr Gething’s leadership campaign.

The Welsh government announced on Tuesday it was postponing changes that would have seen the six-week holiday in 2026 cut to five weeks.

The half-term break in October 2025 would have been expanded to a fortnight.

Lynne Neagle said postponing the change would let schools focus on other major improvements.

Mr Drakeford told the chamber that Ms Neagle’s predecessor published a plan to move one week from the school summer holiday to the autumn half term.

“It was a start on a journey that would have improved the outcomes for children in Wales,” he said.

The MS for Cardiff West said families on the Ely estate in his constituency would “not be worrying… about the quality of life opportunities that come with an extended summer break”.

“Those families will approach the summer holidays in the spirit of anxiety, sometimes amounting to fear.

“And life chances of those children rely absolutely on what the school can do for them.”

Lynne Neagle

Lynne Neagle said “tweaking a week here or there” would not address problems in education

In response, Ms Neagle said she regretted Mr Drakeford’s tone, “which I do feel call into question my own commitment to children and young people, which is the only reason I am standing in this job”.

“It is getting those children out of poverty is what I am interested in doing through implementing our reforms,” she said.

“To think that a week’s change in the school year is going to make a difference to the systemic challenges we are failing in education is quite frankly fiddling while Rome burns.

“The persistent absence rate for free school meal children at secondary school are 50 plus percent.

“That is an astonishing figure, and it is that we have to addressing. It is not about tweaking a week here or there.”

Jeremy Miles sat next to Lynne Neagle as she responds to Mark Drakeford in the Senedd

Lynne Neagle responded to Mark Drakeford as the former education minister Jeremy Miles sat to her left

The dramatic scenes in the Senedd saw the MS for Caerphilly, Hefin David, walk out behind Mr Drakeford.

Before he did so, presiding officer Elin Jones objected to Mr David telling her it was “ridiculous” to allow Mr Drakeford to continue.

“It’s not. I’ve allowed you discretion time after time to continue on important issues for yourself, so remember that, Hefin David,” she said.

A Plaid Cymru spokesperson: “The Labour first minister is in crisis, the Labour government is imploding and the Labour party in Wales is in disarray”.

Tom Giffard, Welsh Conservative shadow education minister, said: “It appears that under the strain of the upcoming vote of no confidence in the first minister, Labour are struggling to keep it together.

“For Mark Drakeford to angrily challenge the Labour government on a policy within his own legacy is unheard of.”

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