A petition has recently been launched by leading outdoor education organisations, calling for the Government to protect outdoor education centres from imminent closure.
As public sector cuts begin to bite, one in three Local Authority centres are thought to be threatened. Their closure would deny millions of children the potentially life-changing outdoor experiences that generations have enjoyed, but in many cases these closures could be avoided, say campaign organisers.
Leading education organisations including the Field Studies Council, Association for Heads of Outdoor Education Centres, English Outdoor Council, Institute for Outdoor Learning and National Association of Field Studies Officers have launched the campaign and are seeking signatures on their petition, which will be used to lobby the Government.
Dr Steve Tilling, Director of Communications at the Field Studies Council (FSC) said:
'The potential loss of these opportunities comes at a time when health, physical activity and contact with nature are all declining. Since launching the petition two weeks ago we have already received over 3,500 signatures, indicating this is a really important issue to people. There have been stories appearing in the news across the UK about cuts to Local Authority budgets affecting outdoor education centres and our Chief Executive has spoken on local radio stations about these threats. The campaign has been featured by education organisations such as the Geographical Association and Association for Science Education who feel strongly about outdoor education.'
'Field trips can be life changing for young people, and for some of the more disadvantaged they may be the only opportunity they have to experience different environments and learn from them. Visits to outdoor education centres inspire young people, enable them to develop teamwork skills, build their confidence and improve their attitudes towards active and healthy lifestyles. The FSC really wants to keep these opportunities available to as many as possible and ensure that future generations are inspired by the outdoors and will go on to protect and enjoy it.'
'We still have a long way to go to reach the 100,000 signatures needed for Government to consider debating the issue. Please support the campaign by taking two minutes to sign the petition.'
The petition calls for the government to create a fixed-term transition fund and provide business training, which could enable Local Authority centres to survive long enough to become self-sufficient. Through this it is thought that many of the threatened centres would be able to remain open. However, if they are forced to close now with no managed transition then campaigners fear that many will never reopen.
The e-petition can be found here.