An extensive engagement involving teachers, local organisations, young people and residents is taking place on how outdoor learning should look in the future in North Yorkshire.
The pandemic has had a significant financial impact on the County Council’s two residential sites at East Barnby near Whitby and Bewerley Park in Nidderdale, which has resulted in the service losing the majority of its £2.25m annual income since March 2020, when the Government issued guidance to close outdoor activity centres. The closure has resulted in the service losing nearly £1m over the last financial year, 2020 to 2021.
The huts which make up the Bewerley Park estate were built as temporary structures in 1939, with an expected life span of ten to twenty years. Created mainly from wood, they have become increasingly expensive to maintain, requiring frequent repairs.
Over the next few months, the views of different organisations will be gathered through questionnaires, user groups and other channels as the County Council carries out its review of Outdoor Learning Service.
The review will determine what North Yorkshire’s Outdoor Learning Service should look like in the future and what services it should provide for the county’s young people.
Given the investment needed at both sites, the review will look at bringing back the service after the pandemic in a way that places it on a sustainable footing, makes the best use of the site and offers a range of facilities and experiences to schools, children and young people.
Cllr Patrick Mulligan, Executive Member for Education and Skills said:
“At the moment Bewerley Park and East Barnby are used largely by primary schools offering week-long residential trips involving outdoor activities such as canoeing, gorge-walking and caving.
“The review will look at what kind of activities we provide in the future, how we use the estate, the facilities we provide and how we make it a sustainable service. We’re looking at this from every angle – including whether we need to work collaboratively with partners in the future, or if we are able to continue with the service as it is.”
The County Council is currently engaging with individuals and organisations with an interest in outdoor learning services, including young people and other North Yorkshire residents who contacted the council after the review was announced to share their opinions, along with existing outdoor learning staff and other stakeholders.
A user group has been established, to consult with organisations and agencies that have some involvement with Bewerley Park and East Barnby, along with a project board.
Schools, pupils and young people are also involved with the engagement.
A questionnaire is also being sent to all schools in North Yorkshire, include primary, secondary, special schools, academies and Pupil Referral Services to understand which aspects of outdoor education are most important and what they would want from the service in the future. Focus discussion groups are taking place with secondary pupils, while primary school children who have visited one of the outdoor centres will be taking part in an art session looking at what worked, what could have been better and what their ideal setting would look like.
If you would like to take part in the engagement and provide your views on the kind of quality outdoor learning and residential opportunities you think should be provided for young people in North Yorkshire, email; firstname.lastname@example.org