School trips charity forced to close

Wide Horizons, which hosted outdoor activities for tens of thousands of pupils, blames lack of council funding

Helen Ward

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A charity that provided adventure holidays, nature experiences and outdoor activities to tens of thousands of pupils has closed.

Wide Horizons, which ran nine adventure centres, shut with the loss of 75 jobs last week after running into financial difficulties.

The charity, which in 2016-17 hosted 44,160 children from 330 schools, said in a statement on its website that the closure was “forced” by Greenwich Council, which had not made a £200,000 loan that the charity had been expecting.

Peter Rogers, the charity's chief executive, said in the statement that he was “bitterly disappointed” and that making the decision after schools had broken up meant the council will avoid “any backlash for schools, parents and pupils who will now miss out on life-changing trips already booked for next school year”.

A crowdfunding appeal was launched, but it did not hit the £200,000 target in time.

School trips charity 'not sustainable'

But the council denied that it had made a “last-minute U-turn”, as the charity claimed. It said that Greenwich and Lewisham councils had underwritten a £1.4 million loan to Wide Horizons last year and when the charity had then asked for a further loan, it asked to see a “more sustainable business model” first.

Greenwich Council said that it was not in the taxpayers’ best interests to provide further financial assistance because the business model provided was not sustainable.

“The organisation, and its staff in particular, have provided a valuable service for children in the borough, so we are bitterly disappointed with this outcome,” Councillor Danny Thorpe, leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, said.

“We will make sure the sites we own are protected and will explore options for them to continue to be used to provide outdoor education opportunities. We will liaise with schools in September and work towards a long-term sustainable solution.”

Wide Horizons was formed in 2004, in a joint initiative between Lewisham and Greenwich councils, as an independent charity to run their outdoor centres. In 2010, it also took over operation of an outdoor centre in Wales, which had formerly been overseen by Walsall education authority.


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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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