Good news at last! At the last minute the Scottish government has stepped in with a support package to help outdoor education centres which have been at the risk of closure.
They found £2million to mitigate the financial challenges facing the residential outdoor education sector as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
The government said the package “will include funding to help centres provide safe, impactful outdoor learning experiences to support young people’s education and wellbeing through this challenging period”.
Congratulations must go to all behind the #SaveYourOutdoorCentres campaign – this is great news because there is no doubt that the issue is about more than children getting a kick out of abseiling or kayaking. Outdoor centres have a two-fold benefit, one outward-looking, one inward-looking. The outward looking benefit is that young people learn to appreciate the outdoors – see my previous blog on why the Government needed to act here. After a summer of littering, vandalism and outdoor toileting gone wrong it’s rather important for the future of our outdoor heritage. But it also has an inward-looking benefit, a benefit to the individual. Risk-taking, teamwork and going beyond the comfort zone. Yes, you can learn some of those things in the classroom but nothing you can do sat behind a desk compares to the feeling of achievement of having abseiled down a rockface after standing wobbly-kneed at the top for ten minutes.
A couple of years ago my daughter went on P7 school camp to an outdoor centre down in Dumfries-shire and she loved it. Probably the best bit of her whole time at primary school – and that’s saying something as she loved the school. And she already knew a fair bit about the outdoors having been dragged around the countryside with her dad. But even I, an outdoor enthusiast who has spent their whole life banging on about the power of nature, was surprised by the transformative effect on the whole class.
Sadly, last year the P7s at her old school missed out on their week’s residential because of Covid. Like so much in 2020, it was cancelled and the knock-on effect means this year’s P7s might also be left without the chance to enjoy and learn on a residential trip. Hopefully, the government funding will go some way to help centres provide some of them with at least day courses.
For me introducing the joy of the outdoors to just one person who would otherwise have thought that sort of thing wasn’t for them is priceless. If you don’t believe me, watch this video made with Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre.