Outdoor education needs a 10 to 20-year plan to turn around its fortunes and restore it to its former pre-eminence, MSPs were told last week.
During a parliamentary debate on the curriculum, Robin Harper, co-convener of the Green Party, claimed there were only two or three full-time outdoor education teachers left in Scotland.
"The outdoor education teachers whom we used to have are steadily growing old and leaving the profession," Mr Harper said. If ministers wanted to consult on the issue, "there will be few people who can add anything to the discussion because the expertise is gradually disappearing".
Mr Harper said there were courses on the shelf at Moray House School of Education, and perhaps elsewhere in Scotland, which were not being taught despite demand from students. Yet outdoor education could play a vital part in instilling the "four capacities" set out for pupils in the curriculum proposals.
"Outdoor education can make a huge contribution to helping the 20 per cent of young people who, often for reasons of low self-esteem, do not perform well in our education system," Mr Harper said. "Outdoor education can help at-risk children and children who are at risk of exclusion, as well as young people who truant or offend."
He pointed out that in Norway all primary schools have a duty to give every child one day a week out of school. "We are nowhere near having such an approach," he said.
Robert Brown, Deputy Education Minister, ran out of time when he summed up the debate and did not respond.
Peter Peacock, Education Minister, is already on record as agreeing that outdoor education can have "tremendous benefits" for enriching pupils'
lives and skills. The Scottish Executive believes the extra 400 PE teachers it plans by next year will create "unprecedented opportunities to see outdoor education grow".
During another debate last week, on the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, Mr Harper said outdoor education is unique because it develops leadership, self-confidence and self-worth.