We were impelled to add the voice of the Scottish mountain bike community to a joint letter from the Scottish Governing Bodies of Sport to the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills to support the #SaveYourOutdoorCentres campaign.
In August 2020 the Scottish Government issued advice to local authorities that school residential trips should not take place. This decision will not be reviewed until December 2020 but it will be too late for schools and youth organisations to be able to plan for a residential trip much before August 2021. With no support or finance package in place this means that many outdoor centres will close.
Residential experiences have been a feature of Scottish Education for more than 80 years. Highly valued by teachers and pupils alike, experiences of residentials at these centres has created vivid memories for many of Scotland’s young people. Every year, 105,000 young people are given the chance to try sailing, canoeing, snowsports, cycling, climbing, kayaking, hillwalking and of course, mountain biking. The workforce based in these 36 centres are specialists, and it takes considerable time, commitment and expense to train them to deliver these activities safely.
We understand the difficult decisions Scottish Government is having to make and have welcomed the additional funding provided by both Scottish and Westminster Governments in some areas, however this funding does not yet address the significant challenge of keeping these centres open.
Scottish Government support at this time would enable outdoor education specialists to continue to support teachers in getting young people active outdoors. It is not just a fun experience; it is vital to the education and development of young people, it has been shown to benefit mental health and wellbeing and will be increasingly vital as we move out of lockdown.
However, these sometimes lifechanging experiences are likely to come to an end if the Scottish Government does not support this sector at this time.