The perils faced by the outdoor industry have recently been briefly mentioned in the media, with countless businesses, charities, organisations, and individuals working tirelessly behind the scenes to get the message heard. The message is that the future of Outdoor Education is at a tipping point; the entire industry stands on top of a cliff, about to abseil over the edge, but the government won’t let it use the rope.
Due to its importance, today we reflect on the current situation that faces both the outdoor sector and those that are missing out on the valuable, safe outdoor experiences. Here are some reflections from our CEO Steve Turner.
‘We are now eight months on from the first national lockdown due to the C-19 pandemic. I look back at those early days in April & May and recall the national spirit and support for our emergency services, the NHS clap for support, the daily 1-hour exercise that we so diligently undertook. There was a sense of us all in this together and certainly from my perspective a hope that by September we might be returning to some sort of normality, how wrong I was.
The outdoor sector is in severe trouble. Whilst we have been able to re-open since July to families & individuals, our main client base of schools are being told not to undertake residentials by the government. As a result, our sector is facing half of all outdoor centres closing permanently.
This is extremely frustrating as we have taken many measures to be C-19 working compliant. The outdoor sector has produced a comprehensive set of guidelines and recommendations for safely re-opening for school residentials. However, the Department for Education has still not changed its stance. It is puzzling for us as a provider to see boarding schools allowed to re-open with many of the same challenges yet we cannot?
Outdoor education is beneficial for our young people in so many ways, it allows them to connect with nature to appreciate the environment, they grow their independence by undertaking a residential away from their immediate family, they learn problem-solving and teamwork skills. The learning they undertake is experiential, direct and all the more memorable for it. They share experiences with their peers that help bond and cement their friendship for years to come. It's beneficial for their health and wellbeing and after months of restrictive lockdown, it gets them outside enjoying themselves in the fresh air.
We understand the need to protect our vulnerable and help stop the spread of the virus and we are fully prepared to do so and have already amended our practice to be more than compliant. We just want a fair chance to work residentially once again with our school groups safely so that we can continue getting our young people to push their boundaries and open their minds. #saveoutdoored’
As part of a campaign to save outdoor education, a petition is in circulation to change the current advice on residential school trips. Please sign and share if you can: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/330559