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Outdoor Education & Lockdown

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 Dale Berry 09 Jul 2020

A friend of mine who works in this area posted this on FB recently and I think it warrants posting here:

I only today became aware of the UK governments continued position that English Schools are advised not to undertaken any residential excursions through the Autumn term.  This was not a news story, and the sector affected is only a very small part of the UK economy.  Also, there is definitely a need to prioritise the health of vulnerable individuals very much at risk of severe outcomes due to covid. 

Having made that clear I should state that as a professionally qualified teacher, working in the residential Outdoor Education sector, I am very disappointed that it looks like this sector will suffer disproportionately badly from the covid measures.  Even though there are a myriad of people working extremely hard to put in place measures that would allow groups to attend ( Albeit with a much reduced density, improved cleaning of spaces and equipment and alteration of approaches to teaching).

Outdoor, Field studies and other residential provision still has an incredibly important role to play in educating young people to live more sustainable and rewarding lives in what must become a 'post' carbon world if humanity is to survive and thrive.

I guess, however, that as we are not net contributors to the political coffers of the mainstream parties, it is little wonder we are going to be forced to remain closed until January 2021 while airlines are permitted to fly with packed cabins, city streets can be stuffed with people buying the latest and most fashionable clothes and training shoes, oh and of course pubs can pack their gardens and yards with merry drinkers.

I hope in due course that schools will feel safe in wanting  to bring their students away residentially, and parents are in position to both feel confident enough to want this and be able to afford the necessary costs of sending them in these trying times.  

Unfortunately I worry that a generation of young outdoor education professional staff will be lost to alternative careers as they struggle to make ends meet in a year that makes the foot and mouth,  9/11, and Iceland Ashcloud years now look, in hindsight, like a walk in the park (for the school travel/residential sector).

This morning I felt deeply saddened when listening to colleagues, who are already finding things tough, hear explanations as to why cuts in staffing are already having to be made in July, with them likely just being the first to face a grim reality of unemployment.

This sadly does not only affect them badly.  It will also only lead to reduced chances for young people to get 'out and about' in the future. 

Training good Outdoor Education staff takes a long time, often several years before they are fully competent to operate with groups in very challenging environments such as being high on mountains and journeys on the sea.  The rewards for reaching that stage are rarely financially competitive when stacked against the investment in time and effort of getting cold, wet, hungry and scared often enough to develop good solid judgement.  This is not a role that can be picked up off YouTube in my humble opinion.

What do I seek with this post?  I want to highlight more widely that if we don't value Outdoor and Field Studies residentials and speak up for it then it will be further cut, watered down, removed and reduced in its scope and potential to enable and promote real and lasting change among young people.  

All we will be left with will be large scale corporate 'venture capitalist' owned provision focussing exclusively on profits, dividends and bonuses for the already rich 'few'.  

And that would be utterly tragic for the future of our childrens' generation.

Thanks for reading.


 spenser 09 Jul 2020
In reply to Dale Berry:

I've always maintained that I wouldn't be here anymore without the skills and enjoyment I derived from being a cadet, these residential visits are incredibly important to the wellbeing and development of skills for young people, particularly those from unstable/ abusive homes. I hope a solution can be found to prevent people leaving the industry.

 Doug 09 Jul 2020
In reply to Dale Berry:

I live in a small village at the southern edge of the Ecrins where we have two 'colonie de vacances' (residential centres for school aged kids) which were shut for the lockdown (as was more or less everything) but at least one of them is now open again although I've no idea how they are operating - probably with reduced numbers, etc.

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