COVID-19: Outdoor learning centres could be 'lost forever' if not included on PM's roadmap out of lockdown

·2-min read

Outdoor learning centres have warned they could be "lost forever" if they aren't included on Boris Johnson's roadmap to reopen from England's latest lockdown.

The prime minister has already promised that getting young people back into their classrooms is his top priority, but he's being urged to allow outdoor learning organisations to restart residential stays too.

"We need the government to step up and make that decision," said Sean Day, at his centre run by the Calvert Trust on the edge of Bassenthwaite Lake in Cumbria.

Generations of young people have built confidence, new skills and friendships at the site - but its outdoor adventure courses, horse riding trails and water sports facilities are all closed.

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"It's absolutely heartbreaking to see it like this when we know the difference we could make to the recovery for young people," Mr Day told Sky News.

"We have developed a plan to enable us to operate in a COVID-secure way and we need to be open by Easter. If we don't get people back by the summer, rather than it being 40% of UK's outdoor centres closing for good it could be double that."

Thirteen-year-old Oliver Voysey describes the centre near Keswick as his "happy place".

Just after birth he suffered a serious brain injury that means he now has multiple disabilities, but the teenager from Newcastle decided last year to start raising money to support the Calvert Trust and is now approaching his target of £250,000.

His mother, Sarah, told Sky News: "Oliver always says it's the only place where he feels the same as everyone else.

"His disabilities just melt away there because the highly trained staff and specialist equipment allow him to do the same activities as his sister and his friends.

"In order for us to get back there, we need the government to support outdoor education centres financially until they can open safely."

It's estimated 6,000 jobs have already been lost in outdoor education due to COVID-19 and a further 10,000 are reliant on centres reopening. Outdoor education groups have recently submitted their own roadmap plan to the government to plot a viable way forward.

Jim Whittaker, from the Association of Heads of Outdoors Centres, said: "At a time when COVID has so disproportionately affected the nation's children, outdoor education has a unique role to play in helping to restore and rebuild their confidence and mental health.

"This is particularly true for disadvantaged children and the thousands of inner-city schools, students and parents for whom outdoor education is a unique and life changing experience. Without meaningful action by the government now, this invaluable resource risks being lost forever."

The prime minister will unveil his roadmap to reopening after lockdown on Monday.