A proposed £4.2 million investment to redevelop and modernise North Yorkshire Council’s two outdoor education centres to enhance their appeal to future generations of school children is to be considered next week.
A range of improvements to breathe new life into East Barnby in the North York Moors National Park and Bewerley Park in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are set to come under the spotlight.
At a meeting of North Yorkshire Council’s executive on Tuesday next week (November 28), members will be asked to approve the first phase of investment at the flagship activity centres that have hosted trips for generations of children across North Yorkshire for decades.
The proposals follow a detailed review of the service, which has attracted residential school trips for decades and saw a deficit of more than £1m three years ago, despite benefitting from Coronavirus furlough scheme for many staff.
Consequent questions over the service saw many people relate how much children had benefitted from visiting the centres, which were built in the 1940s and 1950s.
The authority has highlighted how research into the long-term impact of outdoor education residential visits for children and young people has identified lasting impacts including increases in self-confidence, improved communication and teamwork.
Phase one proposes to provide a new accommodation block at Bewerley Park with 84 beds and to make improvements to East Barnby accommodation blocks and the dining room.
If given the go-ahead, detailed designs for the buildings’ improvements will need to be developed, followed by a two-stage tender process. Work for phase one is estimated to cost up to £4.2 million. A separate decision on phase two is expected in 2027-2028.
North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for education, learning and skills, Cllr Annabel Wilkinson, said:
“This is an exciting project. For decades both centres have proven very popular, being visited by generations of families. Thousands of children and young people visit the centres each year and leave with positive, happy memories.
“It’s vital that our centres continue to deliver wonderful experiences in a more modern environment.”
The council’s assistant director for education and skills, Amanda Newbold, added:
“If given the go-ahead, we expect phase one to be completed by 2025. The new buildings and improvements won’t affect our visitors – in fact, we look forward to welcoming more visitors as the works take place.
“Our staff are passionate about what they do and look forward to enhancing everything they offer.”
Proposed work to modernise the East Barnby site, which has 24 separate buildings of prefabricated construction, could see low carbon technologies introduced and changes to the dining and all accommodation blocks.
An officer’s report to the executive states work has been undertaken to ensure the centres are self-financing and are attractive and affordable for schools’ residential programmes, aligning programmes to national curriculum subjects and to “capture the nature of the outdoor environment”.
The report states its secondary school programmes cater for all year groups and focus on personal and social development, while subject specific programmes are available to support GCSE subjects such as geography, science, and PE.
Both outdoor learning centres enable visitors to develop life and social skills, enhance personal growth, resilience, teamwork and cooperation. The team brings subjects to life in line with the curriculum and improves environmental awareness.
A wide range of residential and day courses are on offer for primary and secondary schools, through to higher education, youth and adult groups. The centres are also venues for day trips and staff development. Those interested in visiting can find out more at www.outdoored.co.uk