Schoolchildren and teachers were among dozens who wrote to ministers in the fight for Scotland’s outdoor education centres.
Letters penned to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Education Secretary John Swinney and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes have been revealed, illustrating the support for centres which it was feared could close for good.
Covid-19 restrictions mean overnight stays are suspended and centres, such as Belmont, near Meigle, in Perthshire, are unable to provide residential trips for school groups, clobbering their income.
A £2 million lifeline for the sector was announced by the Scottish Government just over a fortnight ago, after it came under pressure to act to ensure their future.
We previously told how Methilhill Primary School pupils wrote to the government, fearing their trip to Ardroy in January would be cancelled.
Letters from P7 pupils at St Paul’s RC Primary School in Glenrothes were also among those highlighted in response to a request to the government under Freedom of Information legislation.
Scottish Conversatives MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Liz Smith spearheaded pressure in the Scottish Parliament for help and claimed the government was slow to react to the sector’s financial struggles.
She said: “Covid-19 obviously brought the situation to a head but there were warnings long before the pandemic struck and these were largely ignored.
“The strength of feeling expressed by the sector is plain for all to see and, whilst the recent £2m emergency package is a very important lifeline, it will not sustain the sector beyond this winter.
“The Scottish Government must up its game to ensure that future generations of young people do not lose out.”
More than 24,000 signatures were also collected on a petition for the campaign for greater support.
What help has been given?
The government’s package of support for residential outdoor education centres is intended to help them provide safe, outdoor learning experiences while restrictions remain.
Announcing it, Science Minister Richard Lochhead said he was acutely aware of the challenges faced.
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 which 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.”
The funding is accompanied by communication and support materials for local authorities and schools to publicise the opportunities for outdoor learning experiences in their area.