The Scottish Government has announced a £2 million support package for the residential outdoor education sector, which has taken a severe financial hit due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Science Minister Richard Lochhead outlined the support package in writing to MSPs. He said:
"I met representatives from the sector recently to discuss their concerns and request for funding. I am acutely aware of the challenges the sector has had to face in the wake of the restrictions imposed to supress the spread of COVID-19.
"Outdoor learning is an important aspect of Scotland's curriculum. It can play a vital role in supporting children's wellbeing and attainment and we are fully committed to supporting outdoor education providers. I hope this funding, along with third sector and youth work funding streams which are already available, alleviates some of the pressures facing the sector during these challenging times and allows them to offer meaningful experiences to young people.
"Funding on its own will not address all of the challenges that are faced at the current time. We will continue to engage with local authorities to support the important role that outdoor education centres and their staff can play during the period when overnight residential stays are not permitted for public health reasons."
Alongside the funding, the Scottish Government will produce a package of communication and support materials to be distributed to local authorities and schools with the aim of publicising the opportunities for local outdoor learning experiences.
On a UK-wide level, the school travel and residential trip sector has been effectively closed by Government since March, while boarding schools, hotels and hostels have been allowed to continue operating - a situation that those involved in outdoor education have described as both costly and unfair.
"The inaction over guidance on travel and overnight visits for educational settings has already cost businesses, from small independent trip providers and local authority centres to larger organisations, an estimated £500m in lost revenue and over 6000 job losses," the industry body for outdoor learning and activities, UK Outdoors, have said.
Without residential outdoor education, "schools, children and communities will permanently lose important, formative educational experiences," awards body Mountain Training said in a statement in early October.
In light of yesterday's news, Martin Davidson, Scottish Director for The Outward Bound Trust, told UKC:
"The Scottish Government announcement of £2m financial support for outdoor education centres is very welcome. With overnight school trips currently not permitted centres are facing unprecedented financial challenges and this support will help ensure providers can survive through the next few months when public health restrictions continue.
"The funding will enable centres to get staff working in schools delivering meaningful outdoor education to meet the social and emotional needs of young people in these challenging times. The sector will continue to work with the Scottish Government, and seek funding from other sources, to cover the cost of maintaining the centres and retaining staff teams until they are able to get back to delivering residential experiences."
In England, the outdoor education industry continues to suffer the effects of COVID-19 restrictions. The BMC have a handy online form to help you send a letter to your MP as part of their Save Outdoor Centres campaign, and are encouraging people to sign a petition asking for a change in DfE school guidance to allow overnight educational visits.
UK Outdoors have started a campaign to Save Outdoor Education, asking for public support by writing to their MP to encourage them to lobby Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education. People are also being encouraged to use the hashtag #saveoutdoored on Twitter or Facebook and a petition was launched to change DfE school guidance to allow overnight educational visits.
In Wales, people can contact their local MS.