We still need your help to Save Outdoor Centres

Posted by Catherine Flitcroft on 26/02/2021
Photo: Mark Walker

We still need your help to Save Outdoor Centres. Did you know that the UK stands to lose over half of its outdoor education centres permanently if immediate Government action is not taken?

Update March 2021

  • By Spring 2021, over 2 million UK children will have missed out on educational visits at a time when the Government acknowledges wellbeing and mental health for young people should be a priority.
  • Centres are permanently shutting which are a loss for generations to come, with £500m loss in revenue so far, with a projected loss of 15,000 jobs by spring and a loss of 50% of outdoor education capacity.

School Travel Sector Stakeholder Group

This working group was formed in December to work with the Department for Education on the roadmap to re-starting residentials.  The focus remains on a review by DfE to be concluded early in March.  The spread of the virus, emergence of new variants and the national lockdown now have placed significant pressure and uncertainty on the process but at present, timescales for the review are unchanged. 

It is important that Government follow their original suggestion of changing guidance on school overnight stays for Easter, using the sectors’ updated safety protocols.   It stands to reason that if schools are fully open, then outdoor centres should be too.  School Covid insurance also needs to be backed by the Government to give schools the confidence to book. Welsh Government are waiting on the completion of this review before considering any guidance themselves.

Financial Support

On the basis of the points above, it is clear now that the sector is in desperate need of financial assistance if they are to retain their educational capital.  As a sector, they are almost unique in having effectively been closed for some 10 months.  With the Job Retention Scheme, CBILS, BBLS and a variety of local and national restrictions grants, there has been some support but this is not sufficient to ensure the survival of providers that depend upon school residentials as we approach, and maybe pass, 12 months of effective closure.   The primary asks of the sector, even up until December, have been a change to guidance to enable them to work through this. However, the sector will now be approaching DCMS directly with detailed financial impact information and a request for funding. 


Robin Millar MP and Tim Fallon MP have been co-chairing the new APPG for Outdoor Learning and it has much support from MPs and Parliamentarians.  Plas y Brenin is providing the secretariat function and together they are now developing an advisory group to the APPG within UK Outdoors to support this. This is important as it allows the sector to raise the profile of the urgency and plight of residential centres at a parliamentary level as well as build foundations for developing cross-party understanding of the sector and the value it provides.

In summary

Outdoor education is a vital part of the British education system. Without it, schools, children and communities will permanently lose important, formative educational experiences. How can future generations care for the outdoors if they never get to experience it? 

UK and Welsh Government policy currently prevents overnight outdoor educational visits in England and Wales.  

We’re calling on the governments to ask them to decide urgently on when outdoor residential centres will open and for the UK and Welsh Education Departments to provide clear guidance to schools on allowing children to participate in overnight stays.

HELP: With our online form it takes 30 seconds to send a letter to your MP

The delays in reopening the Outdoor Education sector to date have already had a significant impact.  A decision is urgent as capacity and jobs begin to be lost permanently. The Governments, the Secretary of State for Education and the Welsh Education Minister have an opportunity to act, protecting the industry and getting children back to learning outside the classroom in residential settings.

The sector is built on health and safety and has been prepared for safe reopening since June. Despite the sector’s continued efforts to prove its safety and preparedness (and while boarding schools, hotels and hostels continue to operate) the Governments have blocked residential and overnight school trips.  In addition, it has been shown that infection rates for under 16s are low and the bubble concept used successfully in schools can also be transferred to outdoor education residential settings.

The sector has already seen nearly 3,000 job losses, with 3,000 more likely before the new year, and over £500m in revenue lost since the shutdown. In summary up to 15,000 jobs are at risk and the UK stands to lose over half of its outdoor education centres permanently if no action is taken.

Ensuring all children and young people can benefit from these rich and varied educational experiences is imperative to helping students, schools and the education sector recover from Covid19.  Many of us will fondly remember residential outdoor education experiences.

Photo: Mark Walker

It is essential outdoor education centres remain open as they:

  • support jobs, often in rural areas
  • teach respect for the outdoors and self-reliance which translates into good behaviour and a knowledge of the outdoors
  • foster a lifelong love for physical activity and an interest in the natural environment bringing with it life-long health and wellbeing benefits 
  • develop resilience in young people which can be transferred to life beyond the centre

The UK Government has agreed to a formal review of the current guidance to be concluded in November 2020, with a view to a managed, safe and Covid-secure return in 2021. The outdoor sector however, has been engaging with the Department for Education (DfE) and other Home Nation Government’s since June 2020 but are still waiting for clarity on overnight stays for schools. The BMC and Mountain Training believe this is too long a wait and a definitive date for the re-opening of outdoor residential centres needs to be made as soon as possible.  

Outdoor Education Centres across the UK are facing enforced closure due to the current UK and Welsh Government decisions to advise against school residential trips in the UK.  Without any definitive dates for the safe re-opening of centres, schools are now being forced into cancelling trips up to Easter 2021. Further delays will quickly leave outdoor centres with no courses for the entire academic year. 

We need your help

With your help, we wish to call on Parliaments in England and Wales to decide urgently on when outdoor residential centres will open and for the respective Education Ministers to provide clear guidance to schools on allowing children to participate in overnight stays. We also wish to see more MPs join the outdoor learning APPG,  particularly from Scotland.

Help us protect this important sector so that future generations of children are able to access the outdoors and benefit from these unique settings which contribute greatly to the development of essential physical, personal and social education skills.

Write to your MP

Please send this letter to your MP to ask them to support this request.  We would like this issue to receive widespread political support.

HELP: With our online form it takes 30 seconds to send a letter to your MP

Write to your MS in Wales

Please also send this letter to your Member of the Senedd to ask them to support this request.  The letter will need to be downloaded and emailed to them directly.  We would like this issue to receive widespread political support. You can download a letter in Engish or a letter in Welsh

Please also sign the petition

Financial support for Outdoor Residential Centres during closure

There is also a Welsh equivalent for the Senedd https://petitions.senedd.wales/petitions/244442

This Campaign is supported by: British Mountaineering Council, Mountain Training, Institute for Outdoor Learning, Outdoor Education Advisors Panel, Outdoor Council, UK Outdoors

Join the conversation 

Engage on social media by searching for #SaveOutdoorEd and #muddypuddlechallenge and liking / sharing / retweeting any relevant posts.  Tag in your MP and add in #myoutdoormemory including memories of school residentials or running them as an adult.

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Anonymous User
Outdoor Education certainly needs recognition for its life long benefits to pupils. Currently benefits such as resilience and a can-do attitude are more important than ever. Giving pupils confidence and positive achievements. Not to mention the obvious side issue that covid is currently masking - the climate crisis to which education and a connection to nature is vital should we wish to change peoples ways.
Anonymous User
I sent off this letter and got a response from my MP today, I was wondering if there was someone I could send this to if it's any help towards research or showing support of this great cause?
Anonymous User
yes, email here when you hear back from your MP campaigns@thebmc.co.uk
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