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UK Outdoors Calls For Urgent Action

12 Feb 2021


UK Outdoors, the industry body for outdoor learning and activities, has submitted a roadmap for the phased restart of domestic educational visits after Easter to the Department for Education. This submission, issued in conjunction with the School Travel Sector Stakeholder Group ("STSSG"), calls for urgent action to be taken to avoid the sector being decimated by the impact of the pandemic.


The proposals, which have been developed by a consortium of 12 industry groups, seek to ensure that the sector is able to safely restart school visits and includes a number of elements:

  •  A request for amended guidance to allow domestic day and overnight educational visits to resume in the summer term, in line with background transmission rates in Tiers 1, 2 & 3
  • Development of a COVID-safe operations protocol in consultation with Public Health England to allow centres to operate safely and within existing school bubbles
  • Development of a Government-backed Insurance Policy to reinstate COVID-19 pre-trip cancellation cover in both commercial insurance policies and the Department for Education's Risk Protection Arrangement
  • Request for access to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's Culture Recovery Fund, the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to 30 September 2021 and improved access to existing BEIS grant funding through Local Authorities

Andy Robinson, Chief Executive of Institute for Outdoor Learning and Member of UK Outdoors, said:

"The pandemic and the Department for Education's guidance have been catastrophic for the sector, with thousands of jobs gone and a worrying acceleration in the number of centres closing forever. Our £700m industry is on a knife edge.  But with the right support and guidance, the sector can still be saved. Our Roadmap to Restart provides a clear and prudent proposal for a phased restart of the outdoor education sector in time for the critical Summer Term, giving providers a sustainable path to survival. If no action is taken and no additional support is provided, the sector stands to lose all its 16,000 jobs, snuffing out a vital British industry."

Educational visits play a huge role in the cognitive, social, emotional and physical development of students. The benefits to health and wellbeing and to socio-emotional learning outcomes (including self-confidence, teamwork and resilience) are particularly well-evidenced.

Educational visits also bring students closer to nature and its benefits, such as health, wellbeing and pro-environmental outcomes. Over the last ten months, so many children and young people have been locked down in cities and towns with restricted opportunities to connect with each other or with nature. The inequalities between groups of children accessing these benefits are widening.

The School travel sector will play an important role in students' learning and recovery from the impact of COVID-19 restrictions.
Jim Whittaker, Chair of Association of Heads of Outdoors Centres and UK Outdoors Member, said:

"Outdoor education is a vital resource for all schools with over two million children a year taking part. At a time when COVID has so disproportionately affected the nation's children, outdoor education has a unique role to play in helping to restore and rebuild their confidence and mental health. This is particularly true for disadvantaged children and the thousands of inner-city schools, students and parents for whom outdoor education is a unique and life changing experience. Without meaningful action by the Government now, this invaluable resource risks being lost forever."

It is almost 12 months since educational visits were suspended by government guidance in March 2020. Other key points within the submission:

- 89% of sector revenues come from educational visits; £600m of sector revenue has been lost resulting in 6,000 jobs gone and a further 10,000 jobs at risk
- 1.3 million activity days, impacting 500,000 children, booked during summer term at risk
- £50m financial support package requested to safeguard £700m sector

UK Outdoors includes the following organisations:

AHOEC - Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres
BAPA - British Activity Providers Association
IOL - Institute for Outdoor Learning
Outdoor Council

About the School Travel Sector Stakeholder Group
The School Travel Sector Stakeholder Group ("STSSG") was convened by the Department for Education in November 2020 to formally represent the school travel sector's interests and address potential challenges ahead of the sector's restart. The STSSG is made up of representatives drawn from the educational visits and travel sector and come from industry bodies, trade associations and providers.

The participants of the School Travel Sector Stakeholder Working Group are: 
ABTA – The Travel Association 
AHOEC – Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres 
AITO – Association of Independent Tour Operators 
ASTO – The Association of Sail Training Organisations
BAPA – British Activity Providers Association 
CLOTC – Council for Learning Outside the Classroom 
EPA – Expedition Providers Association 
IOL – Institute for Outdoor Learning 
Outdoor Council 
OEAP – Outdoor Education Advisers' Panel 
STF – School Travel Forum 
Tall Ships Youth Trust 


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