Save Outdoor Ed

Save Outdoor Ed

A campaign to save the UK’s Outdoor Education Centres from closure

saveoutdoored

The outdoor learning sector delivers formative educational experiences to at least 5m students across the UK every year. The sector provides over 15,000 jobs and £700m to the UK economy.

However the Impact of Covid-19 continues to be felt across all areas of Outdoor learning with reports showing an estimated lost revenue of £275 million until mid March 2021 and each day over 70,000 under 18’s and 20,000 over 18’s missing out on valuable learning experiences.

Outdoor Learning Covid-19 Impact Survey

The report conducted by UK Outdoors paints a bleak picture of the devastating impact that Covid-19 is having on the Outdoor Education sector, regardless of the efforts made by many to diversify.

Over 80% of respondents rely on residential school visits for at least half of their income

Two thirds of 127 respondents expect their income to fall by over 80% year on year

30% of respondents have disposed of assets to generate income and half of all respondents are expecting their April 2021 reserves to be down 80% on February 2020 levels

In order for the sector to survive the pandemic we need the Government to step in and provide a support package for outdoor education centres, as they have in Scotland and Ireland.

We need to shout about the #SaveOutdoorEd campaign loud enough so that the Government hear us. We can do this through telling them about the amazing impact that outdoor education has on our countries young people, and the vital role outdoor centres will play in the recovery and learning of young people after the pandemic. **Information at the bottom of this post on how you can support the campaign**

 

The Impact of Our Outdoor Activity Centre

Bendrigg Trust is a specialist outdoor activity centre which provides residential opportunities for people of all abilities including profoundly disabled and disadvantaged people. We enable people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access adventure activities, the opportunity to do so and it is often life changing.

Our Principal Nick Liley has led the centre through an incredibly difficult time to maintain our stability as a charity, but this stability has been dependant on the Governments furlough leave scheme and significant internal fundraising efforts.

I am unwavering in my belief that Bendrigg Trust will be key to the recovery of people with disabilities following the pandemic. People with disabilities will be more isolated, have more anxiety, be less independent, be less active, have more severe health conditions and will have fewer life chances than ever before.

Bendrigg Trust will be part of the solution, renewing peoples self-confidence, independence and self-esteem. We will reconnect people with nature and with other people within the disabled community. We will have a very clear task ahead of us once things reopen and it is imperative that we receive the financial support from Government to do it.

– Nick Liley, Bendrigg Principal

 

 

Throughout the pandemic we have kept in touch with our visitors to find out their current needs and how Bendrigg can play a part in helping them through this difficult time. The truth is that most of our visitors are in a desperate situation. Many families with members who have additional needs are struggling through the pandemic a statement which is backed up by this report from the office for national statistics.

Of all the worries they had, more than 1 in 4 (27%) disabled people were most concerned about the impact on their well-being

Our research and communications showed that families are desperate for a safe outdoor space, to get away from the same 4 walls safely, reconnect with people and enable their family member with additional needs to build their independence again.

In order to support our visitors through the pandemic, we gained our Covid Good To Go badge and opened up our grounds for families to enjoy a safe accessible outdoor space with access to an accessible toilet. The demand for this was huge and peoples feedback showed how much of an impact this service had after shielding indoors for months on end. Once restrictions lifted further we applied for and secured funding to be able to offer accessible day activities for families, college groups and adults with a disability. We also ran our first ever “Winter Wonderland” trail with great success again, the feedback showed just what a huge difference having access to a safe outdoor space meant to them.

Despite the challenges faced, Bendrigg rose to the challenge and were able to welcome a total of 484 participants along with 413 carers/parents/family members since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Client Testimonial – The Whittingham’s

It has been a stressful & emotional time for anyone, but I can only share the impact on my son who has Autism & ADHD. Having to socially isolate has had a huge knock on effect on my son’s overall happiness, motivation and self esteem.

My son has major difficulties with social integration & social communication.  The importance of being included in groups in order to improve these skills, to feel included, to try new opportunities, to exercise, are so beneficial for his Autism & ADHD. Unfortunately any groups he attended, suddenly shut in March 2020 with very short notice including his school. Some groups have not been able to reopen, or have closed for good and 1-1 support with his carer stopped. My sons wellbeing has deteriorated because of the nature of the support which is aimed at increasing impendence and confidence through social, recreational & leisure activities within the local community.

The lockdown was sudden, there was no time to prepare for the disruption and change in routine. We were suddenly isolated.  Being autistic he finds social integration & communication very difficult – all the services & activities to help him with these skills stopped. He no longer was included, no longer able to develop and improve these key skills, and no longer able to feel empowered.

Every time the rules change it causes great confusion and conflict which results in fear, anxiety & frustration. We live in the countryside and normally see very few people, but when the restrictions lifted, suddenly there was an influx of people passing our home. No way were we able to go for a walk, he feared we would have to pass people in the narrow lanes and felt very vulnerable and anxious.

Being active in the outdoors has always aided in my son being able to re-focus and enjoy all of the benefits to wellbeing through being in the outdoors in the sunlight and fresh air.

Bendrigg rose to the challenge facing Covid 19 to create worthwhile outdoor experiences through creative problem solving and provided amazing opportunities that are very satisfying in meeting my sons needs.

Going to Bendrigg gave my son the opportunity to get outdoors again, somewhere he felt safe. It gave him a great sense of freedom not being controlled by the environment, virus & people around him. I believe it was a massive achievement in the face of adversity.

The activities seemed to have an immediate positive effect! Not only was it great for him to be active which helps us to have a healthier mind & body. His confidence was brimming, he was being more independent and was able to make choices with little prompting. He wasn’t clingy or hesitant, initiated conversation with the instructors  (he says the staff at Bendrigg are always friendly & supportive) & within our support  bubble we shared excitement and had lots to talk about regarding the activities, offering peer support  and encouragement and even a little bit of healthy competition.  The whole day had such a great sense of fun, I hadn’t seen my son laugh, smile,  have fun & be at total ease for months.

Through preparation, we felt safe and reassured in being able to give my son these new experiences and challenges. We were able to take part in a great range of activities in a safe & secure way – meeting the Covid 19 government requirements.

The activities at Bendrigg have had a lasting positive impact on my son, that will last a life time.  I’m sure many will remember their time at Bendrigg during the Pandemic.

What Can You Do To Support The Campaign?

There are many ways in which you can support the campaign to save outdoor education centres :

While Government restrictions make the normal operation of Residential Centres impossible, we implore them to provide financial assistance to help this viable & worthwhile industry survive this period of forced closure.

  • Write to your local MP

Once you’ve signed the petition above, you can find your local MP’s details here. Write to them to voice your support for the Save Outdoor Ed campaign sharing your personal experience of outdoor education and the impact it has had on you. Call upon them to provide financial support for the sector to ensure centres survive the pandemic.

  • Share this blog post on social media, via email or whatsapp to your friends and family asking them to take action. On social media use the hashtag #SaveOutdoorEd and tag @BendriggTrust so we can share/retweet your posts.

You could post about how outdoor education centres have impacted your life or someone you know add photos or a video telling people what you’ve done to help and why you think this campaign is so important.

  • Set up a fundraiser or make a donation to your local outdoor education centre

If the Government do not offer a package of support, we will be reliant on fundraising through trusts, foundations and the general public.

You could fundraise in aid of Bendrigg Trust to help ensure our survival so that we can be here after the pandemic to enable more disabled people to have life changing adventures.

If you’d like to make a donation to Bendrigg you can do so online here alternatively you can email Martha our fundraising and marketing officer or call our office Monday – Friday 9-5 and one of our team will be happy to help.

 

Thank you for your support together we can get through this

 

 

How outdoor learning benefits people with disabilities

Ask any adult what their fondest memory of school is and most will come back with an exciting story about a residential trip; how they explored, played, took risks, tried new things and made new friends. At the time, you don’t realise how these experiences shape who you become later in life.

The Government are committed to making such opportunities available to everyone, no matter their background, ability or needs. In their recent white paper ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’, the Department for Education outlined the need for every child to have experiences that equip them with “the knowledge, skills, values, character traits and experiences that will help them to navigate a rapidly changing world with confidence”.

High-quality residentials play an important part in this aim with impacts being seen immediately. The research project, Learning Away, demonstrated the impact that residential learning can have on learner engagement, achievement and relationships. They found that “a residential learning experience provides opportunities and benefits/impacts that cannot be achieved in any other educational context”. These traits not only open doors to employment and social opportunities but underpin academic success, happiness and wellbeing.

It can be argued that these benefits are even more profound and life-changing for the 0.9million children (7%) in the UK who are disabled. High-quality residentials provide “opportunities for students with disabilities to be engaged in physical activities” which is greatly needed as 86% of families with disabled children go without leisure activities. Add to this the fact that 65% of families caring for disabled children report feeling isolated frequently or all of the time and the need for truly inclusive outdoor provision is clear.

Inspiration through adventure

“George” (a pseudonym) was one such student for whom a brilliant residential had a profoundly positive benefit. Therry, a teacher who frequently brought students on residential courses to Bendrigg Trust, tells his story:

The youngest student we ever had with the team was an 8 year old young man, George, with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and profound visual and auditory impairments. This was to be his first time away from his family and home. He blossomed with his responses and became so smiley and noisy (to the degree of cheeky!) showing us there were ways around, through and over the barriers we previously had believed to be there in the school environment.

Once free of his wheelchair and secure in his climbing gear, George felt his way carefully up the climbing wall requiring minimal support from Bendrigg staff but making his own choices, as his fingers and feet found bumps, hollows and things to push and pull on. He was able to fly along the zip wire with happy howls of delight and his eyes, which we understood to provide him with no vision, sparkled. We know that Bendrigg worked its magic in ways no one could have imagined and we are so grateful that George was able to have this experience. I wish it was possible to bottle this ‘Bendrigg magic’ from start to finish so everyone could see, and truly believe what each individual can achieve.

“George” may be a made-up name but his story is real.

Bendrigg Trust believes in the impact that high-quality residential courses can have for young people with a disability; combining activities that they never dreamt possible with a welcoming and inclusive home-from-home. From learning to make your own bed to taking your first journey in a canoe, Bendrigg believes in giving young people skills for life, an increased motivation and appetite for learning and broadening horizons, often opening up a whole new world of opportunity.

 

Do you have a story about the impact outdoor learning? Comment below and let us know!