7,000-strong petition calling on Warwickshire council not to shut Marle Hall is submitted

Residents and education workers across the county have been left upset by the proposal to shut the centre

Marle Hall.

A petition calling on Warwickshire County Council to reconsider a proposal to shut Marle Hall has gathered almost 7,000 signatures.

Located on the edge of Snowdonia and providing more than 100 beds for pupils, the Marle Hall Centre for Outdoor Learning has been part of Warwickshire County Council since 1971 and predominantly takes pupils from Warwickshire schools.

But the centre, which has been closed since March because of coronavirus, is now under threat after Warwickshire County Council's cabinet suggested it should be closed.

Next year the centre is set to celebrate its fiftieth birthday, and in the last five decades it has provided life-changing courses to around 60,000 young people.

In early December the county council announced that they were holding a consultation to consider a proposal to shut the centre.

The news was met with outrage among residents and those working in education, and on January 18 a petition comprising 6,962 signatures was submitted to the council.

On signing the petition, one person said:"Outdoor learning is crucial for children's development and will be even more vital to their physical and mental health after the stress and trauma of COVID.

"Please protect this vital resource.”

Another said: "My children have really benefitted from all aspects of their week at Marle Hall while in year 6 at Milverton School.

"It has always been seen as a rite of passage and a big step in children’s development as they prepare to go to senior school.

"Not every child has other access to the activities they do at Marle Hall. I speak to adults today who went to Marle Hall 20+ years ago and still talk about it.

"Please don’t sell this key part of a child’s development."

The news was also met with an open letter, written by all former managers of Marle Hall.

In it, they highlight the centre's ongoing contribution to the health, education and the welfare of children across Warwickshire.

They state: "Marle Hall Outdoor Education Centre makes significant contributions to the council objectives around work with young people.

"The ethos running throughout a stay at the centre is - Challenge, Teamwork, Respect and Responsibly.

"The centre delivers to the nationally recognised 10 High-Quality Indicators: - Enjoyment, Confidence and Character, Health and wellbeing, Social and emotional awareness, Activity

skills, Personal qualities, Skills for life, Increased motivation and appetite for learning and Broadened horizons.

"The centre works with schools to support inspirational learning, the raising of achievement and the development of aspirations. It helps schools prepare young people to become active citizens and it prepares them for higher education and the workplace.

"An alternative ‘WCC outdoor strategy’ cannot replace the quality of experiences delivered through Marle Hall.

"In reality little or no financial resources would be made available to support such a ‘strategy’ for Warwickshire schools, children and young people.

"Marle Hall should be viewed as an appreciating asset to the LA. It works in close partnership with schools to deliver high quality programmes tailored to the needs of the LA, Warwickshire schools and young people.

"This cannot be replicated through other residential outdoor providers.

"We implore Warwickshire County Council, its councillors and officers to find a way forward for the centre ‘s continuance, for it to be able to deliver high quality, cost effective experiences for the schools, staff, residents, children and young people of the county.

"Should the centre close such a facility would be lost to Warwickshire residents, schools, children and young people forever."

To view the petition, visit: www.change.org/SaveMarleHall