County council drafts policy to promote outdoor education and learning across Warwickshire - just months after closing its own outdoor residential centre, Marle Hall

Concerned councillors say the strategy should be a priority with children and young people being urged to develop the skills they need to flourish in life through the ‘adventure’ of outdoor education

Marle Hall was an outdoor residential centre in north Wales - but it was closed a few months ago.

A policy promoting outdoor education and learning across Warwickshire has been drafted by the county council just months after Marle Hall - its own outdoor residential centre in north Wales - was closed.

Now concerned councillors say the strategy should be a priority with children and young people being urged to develop the skills they need to flourish in life through the ‘adventure’ of outdoor education.

The draft strategy was considered by today's (Tuesday's) children and young people’s overview and scrutiny meeting of Warwickshire County Council.

Sarah Tregaskis, the council’s service manager for education services, told the meeting: “The purpose of the strategy is to support our wider education system to confidently deliver and/or access a range of outdoor opportunities with the aim that all children and young people in Warwickshire can engage with high quality outdoor education and learning, appropriate for their age, ability and experience, throughout their development journey.”

Councillors backed the plan but Cllr Pete Gilbert (Con, Bedworth West) warned that a lot of hard work would be needed to ensure it was a priority for the council going forward.

He said: “Marle Hall was used by many in the past and was often built around teachers with a passion for it. When those teachers left, no-one was there to take it up so succession planning needs to be part of this.

“Just because we are in the 21st Century doesn’t mean that kids have these sort of things in their life and it is a really important part of the curriculum. I hope this isn’t a document that just ticks a box - this is an important thing. We have taken away something and need to make sure we replace it with something that is better and fit for purpose in this environment.

“This document alone will not ensure this is provided in the curriculum - a lot of hard work and officer time will provide this. This is about kids’ futures. Outdoor activity is a major part of their curriculum and their life and learning skills.

“This evidently was a priority for this council once - we had a big building in Wales. It is whether or not it continues to be a priority - I personally think it should be.”

A task and finish group has been working with officers to help draw up the strategy and its chairman, Cllr Piers Daniell (Con, Alcester), said it was about creating opportunities that children would not normally have in their day-to-day lives.

He added: “I think a key part to this is actually giving children the opportunity to have an experience outside of the school environment. Usually those big events that sit in your mind are those that didn’t happen in the classroom.”