We need your help to Save Outdoor Centres

Posted by Catherine Flitcroft on 10/11/2020
Photo: Mark Walker

We 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 6th November: Robin Millar MP and Tim Farron MP have formed a new All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Outdoor Learning.  They had their first meeting on 4th November whch was well attended and the outdoor sector was represented by Andy Robinson (IOL), Jim Whittaker (AHOEC) and Ruth Hall with Loel Collins (PYB). This group gives an opportunity to raise awareness to the Department for Education on Outdoor Learning and will help ensure the sector is more prominent and hopefully more accessible to the young people of the UK in the future.  Importantly, in the short term, the APPG will focus on outdoor residentials and the current threat to outdoor education centres.  They will discuss and understand ways the sector can be reopened and how centres could be funded in the interim period. 

At the same time, meetings with Department for Education have begun to review school overnight trips and this is scheduled to be complete by the end of November.  Only after these discussions / meetings will it be possible to create a roadmap to hopefully reopen the sector based on the circumstances at the time.  Welsh Government are also waiting on the completion of this review before considering any guidance themselves.

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

Change the Department for Education school guidance to allow overnight educational visits, to allow pupils to attend in the same groups they already have contact with in school.

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 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.

We want to say a big thanks to every BMC member who continues to support us through the Coronavirus crisis.

From weekly Facebook Lives and GB Climbing home training videos, to our access team working to re-open the crags and fight for your mountain access, we couldn’t do it without you.

Did you know that we've just launched a new U27 membership offer for just £1 / month? And with full membership from £1.66 / month, it's never been easier to join and support our work: 


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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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