Charity issues plea on outdoor learning

Environmental education charity the Field Studies Council has welcomed intervention from MPs in the fight to save the region’s outdoor education sector from collapse.

L>R: Charlotte Timerick (tutor in the education team) and Ruth Corfield (lead housekeeper)
L>R: Charlotte Timerick (tutor in the education team) and Ruth Corfield (lead housekeeper)

The council, which has its headquarters at Preston Montford, near Shrewsbury, has already warned of a lost generation of learners unless the government steps in to support outdoor learning centres.

Mark Castle, chief executive, has written to the Prime Minister about the crisis and has also been actively lobbying local MPs on the challenges facing the sector.

Today he welcomed the support from North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson, who last week publicly highlighted that hundreds of jobs and hundreds of thousands of pounds were at risk if outdoor education centres were not allowed to reopen soon.

Mr Castle said: “We’re pleased to see that MPs are standing up and listening to the concerns being raised by organisations operating across the sector.

“It’s been a difficult year for us all but what we really need now is a firm reassurance from the government on what they are going to do to address the future of outdoor education.

Part of the Preston Montford Centre

“Thousands of students across Shropshire and beyond have already missed out on the opportunity to develop vital skills and spend time in the outdoors at centres like our own and thousands more will lose out if the situation is allowed to continue.

"We’re not asking to be able to reopen centres now or even at the end of lockdown but we do need to be able to plan for opening in the spring or earlier if possible.”

Mr Castle wrote to Boris Johnson in the summer calling for action and has more recently highlighted his concerns for the sector in a letter to Nick Gibb, the minister of state for school standards.

The charity, which has been providing outdoor education for 75 years, would usually welcome about 150,000 school learners a year to its network of Scottish, Welsh and English field study centres.

However, its centres have been closed for school residential visits since lockdown began in March and the government is yet to set out a plan for the reopening of centres for overnight school trips.

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