Like many organisations working with children and young people, we share concerns about the potential closures of outdoor education centres across Scotland as the sector faces serious financial difficulties due to the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. RCET has held two residential trips at outdoor education centres for forum members taking part in our Youth Participation Project. The opportunities offered by outdoor education centres are hugely beneficial for children and young people and closures would be a great loss, as Nina Collins, RCET’s Youth Participation Project Manager explains:
“The opportunities open to young people at Outdoor Education Centres literally change their lives. I’ve witnessed first-hand the transformation in young people’s confidence and self-esteem during a residential trip. The two residentials we held at centres were vital in developing our forum groups, allowing young people to connect with each other, forming friendships and trust. The loss of outdoor centres will reduce the opportunities open to young people to develop skills, interact with their environment and flourish. A key concern is for those young people already facing disadvantage, who are unlikely to be able to otherwise access the types of activities centres offer, yet again these young people will be the ones who face further loss.”
The potential benefits offered by outdoor education centres for physical and mental health and wellbeing extend to all children and young people. However, they can potentially be particularly beneficial to the social and emotional wellbeing of children and young people in Armed Forces families who can encounter unique challenges often not shared by their civilian peers. Such challenges include high levels of mobility which can entail moving schools and leaving friends, and coping with parental deployment.
Two of our forum members have spoken about how they have benefitted from participating in residential trips to outdoor education centres and shared what the closure of such centres would mean to them:
“Going on residentials to outdoor centres has helped me cope when my Dad was deployed. He was in the Falklands for a year; he’s usually the one who takes me out to do activities so I don’t get to do them when he’s away. Going to an outdoor centre and taking part in activities takes my mind off the fact that dad is away. Without the centres I wouldn’t get these opportunities to support how I’m feeling.” Military Youth Voice Scotland Forum member aged 14 whose Dad serves in the Army.
“Every summer I access an outdoor centre, I really love outdoor learning activities. Going on a residential has given me the chance to make new friends and try new activities like the Jacob’s ladder. They make me feel more confident. It’s upsetting to think that I wouldn’t be able to do them again.” Military Youth Voice Scotland Forum member aged 15 whose Dad serves in the Army.
Given the very real challenges posed by the current pandemic to the physical and mental health and wellbeing of children and young people across Scotland, we strongly advocate that the significant potential benefits offered to children and young people by outdoor education centres be recognised, valued and supported.