Save outdoor Centres

Save Outdoor Centres

For the benefit of future generations, help save the future of outdoor residential centres: across the UK these haven't been able to operate since March 2020. 30 centres have already shut and at least 20 more are under immediate threat to the detriment of our young people.

Government policy prevents overnight outdoor educational visits in England and Wales and thousands of young people are missing out, at a time when the wellbeing and mental health of our young people is known to be critical. There was no mention of when these can resume in the Government's recent Covid announcement.

Outdoor education is a vital part of the British education system. Without it, schools, children and communities will permanently lose important, formative educational experiences.

Please show your support by joining the newly formed All Party Parliamentary Group for Outdoor Learning chaired by Robin Millar MP and Tim Farron MP.

I am writing to request that Government reopen outdoor residential centres across England and Wales, saving jobs and preventing permanent damage to a much-valued educational asset in the UK.

The delays in reopening the sector to date have already had a significant and long-lasting social and financial impact through lost jobs, permanent site closures and missed educational experiences for thousands of young people across the UK.

In a recent survey, some 50% of outdoor education centres said they will have to close permanently if there is no change in guidance for the Autumn season. The sector has already seen nearly 3000 job losses, with 3000 more likely before the new year, and over £500m in revenue lost since the shutdown. In summary up to 15,000 jobs are at risk and the UK stands to lose over half of its outdoor education facilities permanently if no action is taken.

The sector is built on health and safety and has been prepared for safe reopening since June. Despite the sector’s continued efforts to prove its safety and preparedness (and while boarding schools, hotels and hostels continue to operate) the Governments have blocked residential and overnight school trips. In addition, it has been shown that infection rates for under 16s are low and the bubble concept used successfully in schools can also be transferred to outdoor education.

The UK Government has agreed to a formal review of the current guidance to be concluded in November 2020, with a view to a managed, safe and Covid-secure return in 2021. The outdoor sector however, has been engaging with the Department for Education (DfE) and other Home Nation Governments since June 2020 but are still waiting for clarity on overnight stays for schools. A decision is therefore urgent as capacity and jobs begin to be lost permanently and to help protect the future of the sector for generations of schoolchildren.

Ensuring all young people can benefit from these rich and varied educational experiences is imperative to helping students, schools and the education sector recover from Covid19. Many of us will fondly remember residential outdoor education experiences and they remain essential in helping:

I am therefore calling on Government to decide urgently on when outdoor residential centres will open and for the UK and Welsh Education Departments to provide clear guidance to schools on allowing children to participate in overnight stays. The delays in reopening the sector to date have already had a significant impact. A decision is urgent as capacity and jobs begin to be lost permanently.

We need your help:

Help us protect this important sector so that future generations of children are able to access the outdoors and benefit from these unique settings which contribute greatly to the development of essential physical, personal and social education skills.

I hope that you can support this by writing to the Secretary of State to impress the urgency in making a decision, highlighting the importance of this sector not only to the rural economy but to thousands of young people, and asking for guidance on how overnights can happen for schools once again to be published in the coming weeks. I would like this issue to receive widespread political support.