In December last year YHA, The Outward Bound Trust, Scouts, Girlguiding, Field Studies Council and the National Parks came together as a coalition of non-for-profit school residential and educational providers.
Our aim is simple; to ensure that there are opportunities for every child and young person to access high quality learning and residential experiences in our National Parks and AONBs.
This was important before Coronavirus but with over half a million young people missing out on a residential this year and 2 million households going through lockdown without a garden, it is now more important than ever.
Research has proven that school and youth residentials provide opportunities and benefits that cannot be achieved in any other educational context or setting.
Access to high quality experiences in the National Parks and AONB is consistently inequitable. And yet the benefits of these experiences are well rehearsed.
This is a theme through the Glover Review.
For young people specifically there is an inequity of access to school and youth residentials and outdoor learning. This is reflected in the Centre for Education and Youth research on residentials and in wider work on access to enrichment and extra-curricular experiences reflected by Sutton Trust . Children from those areas with least resources are those least likely to access the life enriching experiences that their peers take for granted.
For children and young people with access to the least resources there will be an even greater need for them to connect with nature and our nations breathing spaces, something we know which greatly improves their wellbeing.
Our positive impact on the lives of young people and our social value is well-evidenced.
We are stable organisations with a track record of good financial management and effective business models. We are an important part of the rural, heritage and education economies with long supply chains and employment of local staff on freelance, season and permanent contracts.
We will still be here into the future.
However, our pathway to re-opening our combined provision is a significant challenge and we need government help. Even when business comes back this is likely to be sporadic. As a result of the pandemic we have already lost a combined income so far this year of over £30 million. Both social distancing measures and consumer confidence means that our facilities are likely to be operating below capacity with no significant reductions in our cost base.
We need to open both to help stimulate demand and help kickstart these local economies and because we believe that these educational and residential experiences are at the core of the nation’s recovery.
But we need help to do this. Without this help opening will be at risk and we are likely to have to make significant redundancies and further cuts to our supply chains.
Our request to government:
- Ensure the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme extension or phasing considers the situations of providers of outdoor educational and residential experiences whilst “business” is slowly returning to normal. We fear we will be amongst the last to benefit from an easing of social distancing restrictions in a way that allows young people to come back and benefit from residential programmes.
- Bring forward the funding intended to support the aims of the Landscape Review commissioned by Michael Gove through DEFRA and led by Julian Glover, to ensure there is funding for young people to access outdoor learning, education and residentials in our National Parks
- Provide supportive funds / underwriting for educational and outdoor residential providers beyond lockdown and for at least until the end of the 2020/21 school year, allowing us to see through the winter period which would normally have been funded by successful summer and autumn trading.
- Continue to work with us as key partners as we open the countryside up again for the benefit of the nation and protect rural economies, jobs and supply chains.
- Consider the role of school residentials and existing outdoor learning provision in the plans to develop the use of NCS and Youth Investment Fund monies.
What we are committed to:
- Working together, as well as with our schools and youth groups to ensure that residential experiences can be delivered safely within appropriate guidelines to continue to prevent the spread of the virus.
- Continuing the work we started ahead of this crisis to provide a joined up set of progressive experiences from pre-school to adulthood. Moving children from in learning in green spaces close to their home through AONBs and national parks further afield, and from single nights away to independent travel and expeditions.
- As trusted providers, working with our rural communities to provide reassurance on opening the countryside again to those are in most need of our national landscapes.
- Generating our own charitable funds to continue to subsidise residential experiences.
- A continuing focus on access – with a particular focus on those who could benefit the most but continue to access the least
- Continuing to provide high quality, high value residentials for young people no matter their background.
We also recognise there are many other not for profit, public sector and commercial residential providers who are not listed in this and are also a critical part of our rural economies.