Speaking today in a debate on the financial risk currently faced by Scotland’s outdoor education centres, Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur highlighted the value contribution they make and issued a stern warning about the impact that their closure could have.
Mr McArthur told parliament of his role as a Girlguiding Ambassador and the importance of outdoor education to the girlguiding movement, including through the use of the Guide Cottage in Orphir.
He also drew on his own experience of outdoor education, growing up in Sanday and later making visits to Hoy while a resident of the school hostel in Kirkwall.
Commenting following the debate, Mr McArthur said:
“Outdoor education plays a vital role in enriching the lives of children and young people in Orkney and across Scotland.
“I know from personal experience the benefits it can deliver, from building self-confidence and team work to developing communication and problem solving skills. It is amazing what can be learned from kayaking and bouldering to rock-climbing or just sitting around a camp fire telling stories.
“That is why it is such a concern that so many of our outdoor education centres are under threat of closure. At a time when the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people has been so profoundly affected by Covid restrictions these centres, and the highly skilled staff they employ, are needed more than ever.
“Indeed, if residential centres are left to close while pre-school and nursery children are being encouraged to take part in more outdoor education, we risk creating a bizarre cliff edge for them when they reach primary school.
“That’s why the government needs to look again at the guidance that limits access to outdoor education, while also putting in place support to allow centres to survive and staff to be retained.
“The asks from the sector are clear, specific and reasonable. The Scottish Government need to find a way to accept them.”