We have listened to a wide range of organisations and individuals on our outdoor learning service, ahead of a recommendation on how it should look in the future.
A review of the service, which includes North Yorkshire’s two residential sites at Bewerley Park and East Barnby, is currently underway.
Feedback from hundreds of adults, children, stakeholders and organisations has been collected over recent months, which is being fed into the review.
The pandemic had a significant financial impact on our two residential sites at Bewerley Park in Nidderdale and East Barnby near Whitby, after they were closed in line with Government guidance in March 2020, losing the majority of their £2.25m annual income.
The review has taken place during the closure of the sites due to government guidance and has looked at the range of facilities and activities the service offers to schools, children and young people. It has also looked in depth at the numbers of people who use the service and when, as well as the cost of operating the service and where visitors are located.
Questionnaires were also sent to members of the public, staff and schools in North Yorkshire, as well as schools and organisations using the centre from outside the county.
We also met with parish councils, staff groups, school governors, headteachers, individuals and charitable organisations to gather their opinions on the service and a user group made up of representatives from schools was also set up.
Children from nine schools in North Yorkshire were also involved and took part in an art project to draw up plans and illustrations of what they would like to see from outdoor learning. It resulted in more than 300 drawings, which have been included in the review.
The drawings resulted in some imaginative and creative suggestions for future additions to the service, including camp fire areas, zip wires over rivers, purpose-built stargazing areas, tree houses and farm animal enclosures. One suggestion included an outdoor waterfall pool and Jaguar enclosure, where participants can enjoy swimming amongst Jaguars, before putting on a pair of skis and exiting the area via a ski slope!
A report containing a recommendation for the future of North Yorkshire’s outdoor learning service will go before the council’s executive in autumn.
Schools have recently used the facilities at Bewerley Park and East Barnby this summer for day activities, with more than 180 groups booked in to use the day facilities. While the review continues, both sites will be open to schools for residential visits in the academic year from September 2021 to July 2022.
Innovation at the sites has already begun. Staff from Bewerley Park and East Barnby have taken part in outreach work, going out to meet school pupils and engaging them in outdoor learning in their local area. They took the first group out on June 2, when they collected children from Embsay and took them on a hill walk near their school.
Cllr Patrick Mulligan said: “We have had a very high response to questionnaires and engagement exercises and would like to thank everyone who took the time to give their feedback.
“That information is now being used along with extensive data from both residential sites to come up with the most suitable recommendation for the future of Outdoor Learning Services in North Yorkshire.
“The ultimate goal is to ensure we are making the best use of facilities and opportunities for young people in the county and to ensure this is a sustainable service fit for the future.”