Education news

Pupils should carry on camping to 'help self-development', poll says

Ardnabannon outdoor education centre sits in Castlewellan, Co Down. Picture by Mal McCann

THE majority of adults believe children have less outdoor education now than they did when they were at school, a poll has found.

Most also believe that learning including camping or expeditions is important for a young person's self-development.

Bohunt Education Trust (BET) said outdoor education helped build communication and resilience skills, and "instil a sense of adventure and challenge" which prepares youngsters for later life.

The findings come as the head of the civil service is coming under pressure to overturn a decision to shut Ardnabannon Outdoor Education Centre in Co Down.

South Down Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has also complained to the Equality Commission.

The Education Authority said the 100-bed Ardnabannon centre in Castlewellan would close as part of a review of services - although a public consultation showed strong opposition.

The centre - a former private home dating from the 1850s - provides activities including orienteering, canoeing, archery and hillwalking.

Of the eight large outdoor residential activity centres in the north, one will be closed and three others - Bushmills, Killowen and Killyleagh - will now cater to children who need specialist education services.

Mr Hazzard said he had written to the acting head of the civil service, David Sterling, to outline his "very firm opposition to this decision".

The BET poll found that around two-thirds of respondents said they had access to outdoor education while they were at school.

More than half agreed that there was less outdoor education in schools now than during their own school years.

More than three-quarters said outdoor education was important for a child or young person's self-development, and two-thirds agreed this type of education improved academic achievement.

Around two thirds also agreed that providing outdoor education opportunities was the responsibility of schools.

Phil Avery, BET director of education, said trips and expeditions helped pupils' self-development, communication and resilience.

They also helped "instil a sense of adventure and challenge which prepares students for success in life".

"Additionally, external studies and our own data show there is a strong link between academic attainment and outdoor education."

Andy Robinson, chief executive of the Institute for Outdoor Learning, said the pressure on school finances was such that there "is definitely a tendency towards shorter times away for the residential experiences".

"But there's actually more interest among schools in different forms of outdoor learning, so they might do something in the school grounds, or they might go and visit the local woods," he said.

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