Outdoor education centers have begun to clamor for more attention from the government in England and Wales after they claimed that governments of both countries have neglected them in their time of needs. In their words, the coronavirus and its destructive wave has had a debilitating effect on their operations and as such, every help in the form of relief materials, funds, and reopening of the programs is the only panacea to their survival.
It is essential to know that these outdoor education centers’ provide children with a deeper connection with nature. Yet, the government has refused to waive the ban placed on outdoor activities. This has left owners of these outdoor education centers in bad shape as some of them have resorted to calling for a judicial review to scrutinize the lapses of the incumbent education secretary, Gavin Williamson. To them, the education secretary is solely responsible for the deprivation felt by students of nature and the closure of all outdoor education centers.
Mark Holroyd, an Aylmerton outdoor education center staff, threw more light on how unfair the closure of these centers were to underprivileged kids. According to him, it was their chance to feel, understand, and see nature or wildlife first hand. However, the government is denying these disadvantaged kids such a fantastic opportunity. He urged that actions should be taken to correct this issue.
Outdoor education centres are ineligible for financial support in Wales and England
Since the pandemic took its toll on the world’s economy, different governments have been trying to reopen their economies through strategic bailout to different industries. The governments of England and Wales are no different as different bailouts have been scheduled for “closed businesses.”
However, upon the fact that one of the worst hit industries are the outdoor education centers, the sector appears ineligible for government financial support because they are deemed to be “open” to day trips between lockdowns. This has placed them at a disadvantage against other industries where a recent survey showed that while other businesses might have suffered a 12% fall in turnover, the figure is very much higher for outdoor education centres where it has slumped by 80% on average.
This was attested to by Martin Read, the owner of Hilltop, who said his business has seen its revenue drop from over £1 million to just £40,000. Not only that, his business has also suffered a loss in its workforce and over a dozen of his workers have left. Read also expressed his shock at the government’s lack of support and knowledge of outdoor education centers saying that “we help young people develop respect, self-esteem, cooperation and responsibility, and we employ young people, but nobody seems to be aware of us in government.”
Opening date remains unknown
While many of the owners of the outdoor education centers are urging the government to announce their reopening before the Easter holidays, the Department of Education has continued to advise against “educational visits” in its schools guidance.
This lack of response has elicited a backlash from some of these businesses. Sara Holroyd from the Aylmerton centre said that she hopes that the outdoor education centers would be open before summer so that the kids can have a fabulous residential trip. She also noted that “we’re not just like a pub and we can’t open our doors and suddenly have 50 children here.”
The Lib Dem MP, Tim Farron, has also beseech the government to allow the outdoor education centres to reopen after Easter. According to him, he would be reaching out to the education secretary and the health secretary to fasten the process of opening up these businesses. In his words, “we need to do more than just save outdoor education centers, we need to deploy them. They’ve got exactly the talents we need to engage a disengaged generation and help kids relearn a love of learning. There’s a date for nightclubs to reopen but outdoor centres seem to have fallen off the radar.”
A spokesperson for the government said that the government will continue to take precautions as advised by Public Health England. While adding that the government has “taken action to protect lives and livelihoods, including the extension of the furlough scheme and wider support for businesses to continue to support jobs.”