16,000 people sign petition to save Bewerley Park and East Barnby outdoor education centres

Bewerley Park. Photo: NYCC.

More than 16,000 people have signed a petition to save Bewerley Park and East Barnby outdoor education centres.

The campaign was launched after North Yorkshire County Council announced it was mothballing the centres which had been unable to take children due to the pandemic.

Stacey Howard, who is behind the petition, said: “Both Bewerley Park and East Barnby have been providing outdoor education to pupils in North Yorkshire for many years.

“The staff at these centres are the most experienced you will find.

“It’s not just a case of taking some kids on a trip to try a few activities. What they provide are vital life skills.”

She added: “There are 45 staff at risk of losing jobs but also North Yorkshire and all the schools within North Yorkshire losing a vital place that can’t be replicated anywhere else.”

Youngsters from some 133 North Yorkshire schools and numerous schools outside the county made residential visits in 2019 to the East Barnby and Bewerley Park Outdoor Learning Service centres, near Whitby and Pateley Bridge, respectively.

The centres, which claim to be “the UK’s greatest outdoor classroom”, have for decades offered an array of activities and experiences, such as abseiling and canoeing to generations of schoolchildren.

A report to North Yorkshire County Council’s executive states while many schools had indicated they hoped to visit the centres in the spring and summer terms, current guidance would prevent these from taking place.

The Outdoor Learning Service, which funds its £2.2m annual cost largely through charging for residential visits, was forced to close last March.

However, with annual staff costs of £1.5m it is facing a deficit of nearly £1m unless immediate action is taken to mothball the centres and cut its 42 staff, some of whom it is hoped can be redeployed to other council roles.

The report states: “The greatest impact is on children and young people having restricted access to the outdoors and outdoor learning opportunities.

Purposeful experiences in the outdoors can be a catalyst for powerful and memorable learning. Education visits advisers in the school improvement service will continue to work with schools on maximising the potential of learning outside the classroom – in the local area.”

To view the petition click here.