Scottish adventurers Mollie Hughes and Mark Beaumont have joined politicians from across the political spectrum to launch a new vision paper ‘Thriving Through Residential Outdoor Education’ which seeks to guarantee that all young people in Scotland have the chance to benefit from residential outdoor education experiences.
Evidence shows that learning in the outdoors, particularly when including residential and adventurous experiences, is beneficial for mental health and wellbeing, reducing the attainment gap, and developing a connection to and care for the natural environment.
However, all of these have been negatively impacted by the pandemic amid funding concerns.
The recent Lockdown Lowdown report by Youthlink showed that around two fifths of young people surveyed were concerned about their mental health and wellbeing.
Scouts Scotland president Mollie, who became the youngest woman to climb both sides of Mount Everest and the youngest woman to ski solo to the South Pole, and Mark, who holds the record for cycling round the world in less than 79 days, say action needs to be taken to ensure the survival of outdoor education centres – and they believe access should be embedded for all in the Scottish curriculum.
Mark Beaumont BEM, a former Dundee High School pupil, said: “Young people have had their lives turned upside down over the last year, they have missed school and seeing their friends and their mental health has been impacted.
“I know from my own experience how getting outdoors and having adventures can help mental health and wellbeing. That’s why this plan, which would guarantee all young people the chance to a residential outdoor education experience is so important.”
Mollie Hughes, who enjoyed outdoor education as a youngster in Devon, said: “Residential outdoor education has never been more important for young people.
“The chance to be away from home, experiencing the great outdoors with all of it’s challenges and rewards is invaluable to their development.
“At a time where the lives of young people have been shaped by staying at home to protect their communities, it is crucial that we create future opportunities that give them a chance to spread their wings, foster confidence and resilience, build new friendships and develop an attachment and respect for nature. This is unachievable in any other environment.”
The vision paper published by a number of Scotland’s residential outdoor centres has cross party support from MSPs Liz Smith, Alison Johnstone, Iain Gray, Fulton McGregor and Liam McArthur.
The vision seeks to ensure that residential outdoor learning is embedded across the curriculum, and that all young people benefit in both primary and secondary school.
Mid Scotland and Fife Conservative MSP Liz Smith said: “The whole parliament is united in its determination to support our outdoor centres given the invaluable role they play in the education of our young people.
“It is crucial their future is safeguarded and this new strategy goes a long way to putting the building blocks in place. Ultimately, the sector requires additional funding beyond that provided by the Scottish Government before Christmas and therefore it is vitally important that every effort is made to secure it.”
The vision paper was written by The Outward Bound Trust, Scottish Outdoor Education Centres, Scouts Scotland, Actual Reality Trust/Ardentinny Outdoor Centre, Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre, Abernethy Trust, Ocean Youth Trust and the Field Studies Council.
It is also supported by Children in Scotland, the Association of Headteachers and Deputies, PlayScotland, Youthlink Scotland, RYA Scotland, The Awards Network and Ramblers Scotland.
- A fuller interview with Mark Beaumont and Mollie Hughes on their support for outdoor education will appear in the February 27 edition of The Courier’s Weekend magazine.