Vision paper released to help protect outdoor learning gets broad support

Scottish adventurers have joined residential outdoor centres and politicians across party lines in a vision paper to guarantee residential outdoor education for all young people.

By Jacob Farr
Thursday, 18th February 2021, 7:00 am
Jessica Cronin and Sophie Docherty
Jessica Cronin and Sophie Docherty

“Thriving Through Residential Outdoor Education” has been created to try to place pressure on the government to ensure that every child has access to outdoor learning centres especially in residential spaces.

It follows the ‘Save Your Outdoor Centres Campaign’ which successfully lobbied for a £2m relief fund from the Scottish government - an amount many feel barely scratches the surface.

The vision focuses on several key areas that represent the benefits of outdoor learning, from mental and physical well being, to creating life skills and actively reducing the attainment gap for young learners.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Mollie Hughes

Round the world cyclist Marc Beaumont BEM, and Mount Everest conqueror Mollie Hughes – Scouts Scotland president and adventurer – threw their support behind the vision as ambassadors.

They helped to bring various actors together to try to build a consensus that could ensure the long term viability of outdoor learning.

They aim to make Scotland a place where every single young person has the right to outdoor centres.

Mollie said: “From my own personal experience outdoor learning is a leveller. It levels everything by getting people to focus on working as a team, building resilience and an understanding of the natural world around them.

Emily Cronin

“I spent a lot of time in the past ten years doing expeditions that tested me by going outside of my comfort zone. I want to ensure this experience is available to all young people across Scotland regardless of background.”

Marc added: “This vision paper is the beginning of various industry bodies coming together to share expertise and resources that protect the future of outdoor learning. We have had great success with this as well as bringing together politicians from various parties.

“Our aim is to have outdoor learning placed on the school curriculum for every child across primary and secondary.

“Centres are being threatened with closure and we hope that this paper will lead to greater financial support from the government. We have to guarantee that the next generation of young people get the opportunity to learn vital skills and to learn how to connect with their natural environment.

“I value how much the outdoors has done for my own personal development and want to make sure young people have the same opportunity.”

Martin Davidson, director for Scotland at The Outward Bound Trust, said that he felt more had to be done to make outdoor education more accessible and called on the government and leaders in education to consider how to build upon the existing funding models to realise the ambition of equitable access to the benefits of outdoor residentials for all.

East Lothian MSP Iain Gray MSP said: “All the evidence shows that outdoor learning can help close the poverty related attainment gap and provides significant educational, health and wellbeing, social and personal development benefits.”

The vision paper was written by The Outward Bound Trust, Scottish Outdoor Education Centres, Scouts Scotland, Actual Reality Trust/Ardentinny Outdoor Centre, Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre, Abernethy Trust, Ocean Youth Trust and the Field Studies Council.

And was supported by Children in Scotland, the Association of Headteachers and Deputies, PlayScotland, Youthlink Scotland, RYA Scotland, The Awards Network and Ramblers Scotland.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.