Outdoor education centres are to receive £2 million of Scottish government cash to help the sector survive the Covid-19 pandemic.
Announcing the financial support, education minister Richard Lochhead said it should allow the centres – which are currently not permitted to have youngsters for overnight stays – to provide “meaningful experiences”.
Martin Davidson, the Scottish director for the Outward Bound Trust, said that the funding was “a little short” of the £2.5 to £3 million the sector had sought but added it was “a very good foundation on which to build”.
Very positive news from @scotgov @RichardLochhead. Whilst a little short of the £2.5m-£3m we sought it’s a very good foundation on which to build. Would be great if Scottish funders & philanthropists would now match @scotgov to ensure we can truly meet the needs of Scotland’s up— Martin Davidson (@MDavidson_OBT) October 22, 2020
Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservative MSP Liz Smith, who has been calling for more support for the centres, said a long-term strategy is still “urgently needed”.
Mr Lochhead insisted he is “acutely aware” of the challenges faced by the sector owing to coronavirus restrictions.
He said: “Outdoor learning is an important aspect of Scotland’s curriculum. It can play a vital role in supporting children’s wellbeing and attainment and we are fully committed to supporting outdoor education providers.
“I hope this funding, along with third sector and youth work funding streams that are already available, alleviates some of the pressures facing the sector during these challenging times and allows them to offer meaningful experiences to young people.
“Funding on its own will not address all of the challenges that are faced at the current time.
“We will continue to engage with local authorities to support the important role that outdoor education centres and their staff can play during the period when overnight residential stays are not permitted for public health reasons.”
Ms Smith said the funding is “welcome progress brought about by the extensive lobbying of the outdoor education sector and the cross-party group of MSPs who have lobbied the Scottish government so hard in recent months”.
She added: “There is universal agreement that outdoor education is one of the most precious assets in the whole educational experience and we cannot let centres close.
"The £2 million for the immediate future will help to cover costs this winter but no one – including the Scottish Government – should be in any doubt that a long-term strategy, properly funded, is urgently needed to ensure our centres can plan ahead for the post-Covid era.”