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Alliance backs outdoor education

The Countryside Alliance is supporting efforts across the United Kingdom to guarantee every child access to a residential outdoor education programme at least once in their school career. 

Initiated by the Outward Bound Trust, the effort is being spearheaded in the UK Parliament by Liberal Democrat Tim Farron MP (Westmorland and Lonsdale) in a Private Member’s Bill. Although constraints of parliamentary procedure mean it is unlikely to reach the statute books, his Outdoor Education Bill serves to highlight this important campaign and there will likely be further parliamentary debates to continue to raise the profile of the issue. 

In a truly cross-party initiative, Mr Farron’s Bill follows the introduction of similar legislation by Conservative legislators in Scotland and Wales. The Schools (Residential Outdoor Education) (Scotland) Bill brought by Liz Smith MSP (Mid Scotland and Fife) reached the final proposal stage last January, whereas the Residential Outdoor Education (Wales) Bill from Sam Rowlands MS (North Wales) is now completing a consultation by the Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee to which Countryside Alliance Wales has responded supportively. 

As our submission to the consultation in Wales pointed out, The Countryside Alliance Foundation already goes to substantial lengths to contribute to young people’s understanding and appreciation of rural Britain and life outdoors. Our Fishing for Schools programme offers opportunities for predominantly urban schools to give their pupils an experience of angling. We believe our efforts would be greatly enhanced by residential outdoor education opportunities being offered more widely by schools across the country. 

Outdoor educational experiences represent an invaluable, and potentially transformative, contribution to a child’s learning and personal growth. They foster practical knowledge, skills and resilience in the face of challenges, none of which could be successfully replicated in the confines of the classroom. This is especially true for children whose personal and family circumstances do not otherwise enable them to engage in outdoor pursuits. 

Individual benefits aside, outdoor education also fulfils an important social purpose. As our members know all too well, there is a gulf in understanding as to the realities of the countryside between those who live and work in it and people brought up in urban environments, which has fuelled prejudice against essential rural activities. Addressing this is a legitimate and necessary purpose of public education. Facilitating outdoor education would do so by giving all children the opportunity to experience life in the natural environment directly and stimulating surrounding discussion and thought, and in doing so would promote social accord. 

The Countryside Alliance will follow closely the progress of these Bills and take all opportunities to help advance the case for them. To support our work to improve public understanding of the realities of the countryside, please consider joining the Countryside Alliance today.

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