Former teacher's impassioned plea to keep the outdoor education centre at Marle Hall open for Warwickshire children

A petition containing nearly 7,000 signatures has been presented to the county council after its proposal to close it

A former teacher has made an impassioned plea to county councillors for them to keep the outdoor education centre at Marle Hall open.

A former teacher has made an impassioned plea to county councillors for them to keep the outdoor education centre at Marle Hall open.

Phil Stickley, who led school parties to the residential centre in North Wales for 15 years, spoke at today's (Wednesday's) virtual full council meeting when he presented a petition containing nearly 7,000 signatures calling for a rethink after Warwickshire County Council’s cabinet proposed that the 50-year-old facility should shut.

He said: “I was a teacher in Warwickshire schools for some 20 years and for 15 of those years I led groups to Marle Hall. I now work in the outdoor education industry and that choice was most certainly influenced and inspired by my amazing experiences at Marle Hall with groups of children. I feel this background gives me the necessary authority to speak on behalf of the near 7,000 signatories.”

Highlighting Government figures on increasing levels of obesity and mental health problems, Mr Stickley questioned the thinking behind closing the centre.

“Going to Marle Hall is an amazing experience for children,” he added. “They go into the real Snowdonia National Park and not stuck behind a fence in a centre as is true of so many of the well known private providers. I have been climbing with children on a real mountain crag not just on a wooden tower in a centre, canoeing at the foot of Snowdon not in a man-made pool.

“The word transformational is often used around a visit to Marle Hall. I’ve known children whose confidence and resilience has simply soared after a visit. Parents are often truly amazed at what their children had achieved at the centre.

“There are 50 years of history at Marle Hall - it has been there since 1971 belonging to the people of Warwickshire. The closing of the centre would not serve Warwickshire well, it would be an act of folly.”

Outdoor learning centres across the country have been closed for 12 months due to Covid-19.

Cllr Colin Hayfield (Con, Coleshill South and Arley), the portfolio holder for education and learning, said: “I want to thank you for the time and effort you have gone through in putting this petition together.

“I would say that the county council has not taken a final decision on this and we do value the importance of residential offers for our children as part of our ongoing strategy and will consider all options and all suggestions put forward before we take a final decision.”