Plea to open outdoor education centres

A director of an outdoor education centre in Bruton says she feels let down by the government after being forced to stay closed for a year.

Tricia Rawlingson Plant, who started Mill on the Brue with her late husband Tony in 1982, says outdoor education is safe and hugely beneficial – yet because of ongoing covid restrictions she has been unable to open at all since last March.
She says 40 per cent of outdoor education centres have closed permanently as a result, and another third are in ‘imminent danger’ of collapse.

She said: “Government guidelines state that schools cannot go on residential trips and as yet have not reversed this decision. Thousands of jobs have gone, centres have lost 95 per cent of their annual income. The situation is dire. We are not even mentioned in the ‘road map to recovery’ (along with strip clubs)! It is ridiculous that night clubs know when they can open but we do not.”

Tricia is part of the Save Outdoor Education campaign, which argues the sector is safer than most. She said: “All our activities are outdoors and we risk assess automatically as it comes with the business of running an outdoor centre. As for the accommodation, boarding schools are open and running. The Department of Education argues that boarding schools were part of the plan to reopen along with all other schools on March 8. So where’s the logic?”

She added: “In spite of the government encouraging people to get outdoors and millions feeling the benefits we feel that the DofE does not value outdoor education. “It’s not about canoeing or climbing or hiking – it’s about children getting outdoors, appreciating nature and the environment, learning to share, communicate, become more independent, facing their challenges, getting to know different people, recognising their own and others’ abilities, feelings of self- worth and achievement – the list is endless. The impact of a residential trip on most children is life affirming, one that they remember for the rest of their lives.”

Tricia says outdoor education should form ‘part of the recovery from the pandemic, particularly for children’.
She said: “At the moment they have been confined to home, often with limited circumstances, their mental and physical health has deteriorated significantly. We can help, but only if we can reopen. Once centres have closed they are lost forever. Scotland has taken the bold step of recognising the value of outdoor education – surely the rest of the UK can do the same?”

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