Nigel Miller, managing director of Active Learning Group, highlights the importance of outdoor learning after a survey revealed students have been missing out on valuable experiences due to COVID-19
With the impact of COVID-19 continuing to be felt across all areas of the extracurricular experiential learning sectors – and following the initial COVID-19 Impact Surveys – over 70,000 under 18s and 20,000 over 18s have been missing out on valuable outdoor learning experiences since the first quarter of this year.
Teachers, parents and guardians everywhere understand that the outdoor environment offers massive potential for learning opportunities, and we are extremely fortunate here in the UK to have such rich urban and rural environments on our doorsteps, where children can spread out and reap the benefits of the great outdoors. But COVID-19 has put education back decades, where the three R’s are taking priority above everything else.
Confidence, Curiosity and Character
I would argue that the three C’s of extra-curricular activities – Confidence, Curiosity and Character – are just as important in our young people’s development and believe we should look at how we develop the whole person with age-appropriate outdoor, as well as indoor experiences outside of the classroom.
We are one of the most safety-conscious sectors – every year we’re responsible for the safety and welfare of over 100,000 4-18-year-olds. Obviously, COVID-19 has heightened everyone’s awareness of safety and, of course, we have gone to extensive lengths to ensure our environments are COVID-free. However, we also need to take on board the alarming rise of mental health issues and childhood obesity when looking at the overall welfare of our young people.
I hope there will be a resurgence of extra-curricular education in 2021 that will include a variety of quality outdoor learning experiences, where children are actively encouraged to move away from their screens and get out into the fresh air with established and trusted providers that harbour a wealth of talent.
As part of our commitment to ensuring schools feel safe booking their trips again to get the sector and children moving, our company Promise goes some way towards helping.
Whilst we have been able to refund schools and parents there have been many that have been left footing the bill and I don’t think that’s fair. The financial risk is certainly a major concern for all schools and parents and our sector needs to restore confidence today if the industry has any chance of surviving this pandemic. Therefore, Active Learning Group and all of its brands – Bushcraft, Ardmore, Supercamps, and Cuffley and will continue to promise a full refund to our schools and, in turn, their parents.
Post COVID-19, economies will recover in time and important lessons will be learned, but a generation will have missed out on vital elements of ‘coming of age’ and healthy transitions from early years to primary, to secondary and further education. There is no accounting for the strains this will place on our already stretched to capacity services for the rest of their lives and we hope that our Promise will help to get extracurricular education back on its feet as soon as possible.
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