Outdoor education centers in Wales nearing extinction?

Many businesses which offer educational services such as school trips for pupils might fold up if the proper measures aren’t taken at the right time. The country boasts of 44 outdoor education centers, but it’s currently reduced to 39 due to the pandemic. 

School trips make up a big chunk of these businesses’ income, especially with students coming in from abroad. The government had promised to salvage the situation, but all indications still point towards the “end of educational trips,” as the Department of Education (DfE) puts it.

The losses had hit a whopping £500million as many wonders if hope is near. Nevertheless, these outdoor centers plan on making a reopening move after Easter.

As those engaged in the outdoor education centers laid bare their concerns to the Prime Minister a week ago, there had been new developments urging him to tuck outdoor education into the latest education reopening plan. According to the body, they await DfE for further development. 

Outdoor Education Centers Economy

If the DfE could agree to the outdoor education centers’ proposition, the Wales government must give the nod before its industry could start. Even a £40million claim to the economy and over 1700 employees seem not to make a difference.

Ed Jones, an outdoor center owner, said he wouldn’t care if the government doesn’t throw in the towel anytime soon. He has a team of well-trained staff at Rhosy Gwaliau Outdoor Education Center. Mr. Jones affirms that both himself and his family are ready to vacate their home and live in a camper can if that would make their outdoor center maintain its balance. He also said that he would make sure to do everything in his power to keep his staff on, no matter the cost. Mr. Jones would do anything to stay running. 

In contrast to Mr. Jones, Mark Downey sees a different angle to the issue. He is a director at the CMC Adventure, which doubles as a charity foundation. Downey feels he might not be able to continue with his business’s operations due to the strained condition caused by the Covid-19. According to him, there will be a complete cash drought before May, and there would be nothing he can do afterward. Mr. Downey has no plans of continuing CMC if the income drought doesn’t stop. 

Damage Control 

The sector “has essentially been decimated,” Mr. Downey said. He also proposed a solution. Mr. Downey prayed the Welsh government to reopen the outdoor education center sector with an adequate safety net for people from abroad. He believes that both the local community and his staff can effectively manage the risk Covid-19 might throw at them. Thus, there should be a reopening before innocent businesses completely fold up. 

Gareth Davies, the operations manager at Arete Outdoor Education Centre, labeled the outdoor education center as a “forgotten sector.”  He had always felt the optimism of school reopening, paving the way for their business rejuvenation. He emphasized the need for good mental and physical health programs for pupils as it engages the new generation of students in more way anyone can imagine. He said now is the best time to help fill these gaps with their outdoor education centers. Closing it will ensure the pupils missing out on this crucial part of their growth. 

He also feels the industry body should take a quick decision. Else, reopening might be pushed further into later dates. Over 95% of the incomes come from school residential stays. He feared for the fate of outdoor education centers if solutions aren’t proffered fast. “I don’t see how we’re going to survive.” He said. 

UK government’s take

As much as the timing isn’t perfect, the Welsh government has promised to do its possible best for the outdoor education center sector. In the spokesperson’s words, the priority is to “get as many children and students back to school as possible.” Businesses in Wales got immense support from the non-domestic rates scheme, Economic Resilience Fund, and UK government. 

According to the spokesperson, the government is doing everything in its power to shield its light and support businesses in Wales during these dark times. The relaxation of restrictions will also be determined by the improvement shown in public health. 

Furthermore, the government had injected money to boost the economy and kept aside a whopping sum of £200 million for the subsequent year. The government will also show more support by reviewing new options to ease businesses.  The spokesperson also threw light on the UK’s commitment to keeping her citizens safe even as Covid-19 continues to threaten all.