Loss of school trips in pandemic ‘has cost £500m’

As reported by BBC news, lack of school trips during the pandemic has cost the outdoor education sector £500m and caused the loss of 6,000 jobs, a group has said

The Institute for Outdoor Learning (IOL), which supports the sector across Britain, is calling for a change in rules banning residential visits. If centres cannot offer these courses to schools, they say they may be forced to close – with 15,000 jobs at risk.

The Welsh and UK governments say they regularly review the rules. The IOL said pupils have lost out on 1.5 million educational visits since March – and they are worried all of the 15,000 staff who work in the sector could lose their jobs.

Snowdonia has one of the largest concentrations of centres in Britain with about 25 locations catering for schools and educational establishments across the UK. Sophie Holdstock, who works at the Arete Outdoor Centre in Llanrug, said: “In the Snowdonia area we’ve already had two centres give out redundancies.

“It’s going to have an impact on the economy and it’s such a shame because this area is absolutely amazing for outdoor education.

“We’ve got the mountains, the beaches and we take the children to learn about the local culture.

“We take them underground, they learn about the slate mining, Welsh history. All of that’s being lost at the moment.”

She said all the centres in the area were ready to open and had safety measures in place.

“We were hoping to reopen in September with the autumn term,” she said.

“But it’s almost turning into a generation now that could potentially miss out on its outdoor education, especially if the guidance doesn’t change and these centres close down.”

Ed Jones, director of the Rhos-y-Gwaliau outdoor centre in Bala, said: “Most of our business comes from England and they can’t come for the day, it’s too far – they have to stay overnight.

“We’re working a little bit with local schools, but that’s only about a week or two in a year. It’s not enough to keep us going.”

Outdoor education will form part of the new curriculum in Wales which is supposed to be introduced in 2022, and the outdoor sector is arguing the centres should play a vital role in delivering that.

The Welsh Government said it had funded more than 13,000 businesses to help cope with the impact of coronavirus and firms in the sector were eligible for support.

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