A Scottish Conservative MSP will launch a Member’s Bill that seeks to guarantee every school-age pupil will have access to residential outdoor education.
The Bill proposal from Liz Smith has support from a range of organisations, including Scouts Scotland, YouthLink Scotland and The Outward Bound Trust.
The Mid Scotland and Fife MSP has announced the general principles of the Bill, which would make it a statutory requirement for local authorities to offer all 12 to 16 year olds at least one week of residential outdoor education.
Work is under way with the Scottish Parliament Non-Governmental Bills Unit to develop the proposal.
Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, Liz Smith MSP, said: “All young people should have the opportunity to experience outdoor education, which has a proven track-record of success in developing life skills and building self-esteem.
“Outdoor education provides skills that are highly valued by parents, employers, and further and higher education institutions.
“This proposal, which I am delighted has gained the support of so many organisations already, would guarantee that every young person has the opportunity to take part in outdoor education.
“The general principles of this Bill, to deliver at least one week of residential outdoor education for every pupil, would provide the greatest benefits to more vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, who have lost out so much during the pandemic.
“After a difficult 18 months that has damaged many young people’s mental health, outdoor education is needed more than ever.”
Katie Docherty, chief executive of Scouts Scotland, said: “Scouts Scotland are pleased to welcome the principles of Liz Smith’s Member’s Bill. Residential experiences at outdoor education centres are extremely important for young people and support mental health, wellbeing and attainment.”
Eileen Prior, from the parent group Connect, said: “Parents tell us how important this experience is to their young people's confidence, team-working skills and personal development - that experience needs to be delivered in affordable, inclusive ways that work for young people and their families.”
A YouthLink Scotland spokesperson said: “We very much support a guarantee to outdoor education for young people in Scotland and supported the campaign to Save Our Outdoor Centres both publicly and through our influencing work with Scottish Government.”
Keir Bloomer, one of the architects of the Curriculum for Excellence, said: “A stay at a residential outdoor centre can be a life-changing experience for many young people. For virtually all it is hugely positive. They acquire new skills and interests, become more socially accomplished and, above all, gain in confidence and resilience. I welcome Liz Smith’s Bill. If it is approved, every young person, rich or poor, will have the chance to benefit from an outdoor centre can offer.”
Martin Davidson, Director Scotland & Innovation, The Outward Bound Trust, said: “It is well proven that Residential Outdoor Education has significant impact on children and young people’s confidence, self-belief, resilience, ability to develop and sustain positive relationships with others, and a connection with, and care for the natural environment. Beyond the research evidence, young people speak powerfully of the amazing memories of their outdoor residential and the impact it has on their lives.
“Unfortunately in Scotland children and young people do not have equitable opportunity to benefit from residential outdoor experiences, with often those that have most to gain missing out. Therefore I wholeheartedly support the proposed members bill that is being brought forward by Liz Smith and has cross party endorsement within the Scottish Parliament. As young people reconnect, reengage and rebuild post Covid there could not be a single more important thing than to ensure that all young people are entitle to, and benefit from an residential outdoor education experience.”
Dave Spence, Chief Executive of Scottish Outdoor Education Centres, said: “We need to inspire young people to develop the qualities (confidence, resilience, ‘can do’ mind set) and skills (teamwork, communications, problem solving) that they will need to survive and thrive in their future. One of the best things that adults can do is to ensure that young people benefit from life-changing, residential outdoor learning experiences. These immersive experiences transform young people, their self-perception and self-belief.
“In 1939, just 20 years after the First World War and knowing that the country was ill-prepared for the next, Parliamentarians took the astonishing step to debate and enact a Bill that would see 5 Centres built in Scotland. Though initially needed as evacuation centres from Scottish cities, they were envisaged to be an important educational initiative, “possibly the most important education initiative since schooling was made compulsory” to be “looked back on as the best thing we did at this time.” The threats we face are no less existential, and we need MSPs with the vision and commitment so remarkably exemplified by their predecessors, to take action to empower young people for their future.
“SOEC wholeheartedly endorses Liz Smith’s proposal to bring a Bill before the Scottish Parliament. It is time to take the challenges seriously that young people face and give our children what they deserve - the fighting chance.”
Alan Smith, chairman of Loch Ken Trust, said: “At Loch Ken Trust we are committed to the provision of recreational facilities, environmental protection and improvement measures all within a framework of community development and rural regeneration. The majority of challenges we face can be addressed within the broad description of better education. The earlier such education can begin then the better chance we have of ensuring that the next generation are better placed to enjoy and respect our environment whilst enjoying our beautiful outdoor spaces. To this end our Ranger has already had a session with young people to give them an enjoyable loch side experience whilst providing valuable educational content.
“This is the start of a programme which is being worked up and has received an excellent social media response. Resources are always an issue , despite local government and multi-organisational support , so we do hope that Liz Smith’s Member’s bill can galvanise government to recognise the huge importance of outdoor education and the need to make it accessible to all.”
Notes: Liz Smith launching the bill can be viewed in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R65fvGZlzwo