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Scotland’s outdoor education sector has issued a call to the Scottish Government to support outdoor residential centres or face losing them forever. The sector has come together and launched a petition to ask the Scottish Government to review its decision not to provide a financial support package to the sector, while it remains unable to operate as normal due to the impact of COVID-19.

On 14th August the Scottish Government issued advice to local authorities that  school residential trips should not take place until at least the Spring term in 2021. There is no review date set. With no financial support package in place many outdoor centres will close.

The closures are already starting, with the closure Girlguiding Scotland’s centre – Nertherurd House. More will follow and shut down permanently before Christmas.

Martin Davidson, Director – Scotland and Innovation,  The Outward Bound Trust said: “This decision is catastrophic for both young people and for outdoor centres. The school residential has been feature of Scottish education for years. It is highly valued by teachers, it develops self-confidence and helps with mental health and wellbeing. It creates memories of a lifetime for millions of young people. These fabulous experiences will come to an end as the Scottish Government has decided not to support outdoor residential centres. While the Government has supported many sectors to ensure their survival and enable them to adapt, residential centres are unable to operate and remain in lock-down.”

Jane Campbell Morrison MBE, Chair,   Scottish Adventure Activity Forum said: “It is vital that the Scottish Government provide support for outdoor residential centres because this would enable outdoor education specialists to support schools and teachers getting pupils benefitting from being active in the outdoors. We already work with thousands of teachers every year to help deliver the outcomes related to Curriculum For Excellence. Young people have missed out on so much this year due to lockdown and coronavirus; we cannot let the residential experience be another thing they have to lose.”

The outdoor residential sector supports thousands of jobs both directly within the sector but also in the rural economies where many are based.

Research from Learning Away has shown that has shown that a residential learning experience provides opportunities and benefits/impacts that cannot be achieved in any other educational context or setting. The impact is greater when residentials are fully integrated with a school’s curriculum and ethos. This is echoed in the Scottish Government’s document “Curriculum for Excellence through outdoor learning” it states that “Progressive outdoor learning experiences are best delivered through a combination of school-based outdoor learning and residential programmes.”

The #SaveYourOutdoorCentres campaign is urging  all people in Scotland who have benefitted from a residential experience over the years, as well as teachers, youth workers, support networks for young people with additional needs, and any parents and young participants who have recently benefited from a residential outdoor learning experience, or who were looking forward to their turn, to write to their MSPs and the Government and demand they #saveyouroutdoorcentres.