THE FUTURE of outdoor learning is the focus of discussions at North Yorkshire County Council amid the latest review.

Over the next few months, teachers, local organisations, young people and residents will be questioned on the Outdoor Learning Service.

It comes after significant financial losses on the County Council's two residential sites at Bewerley Park in Nidderdale and East Barnby near Whitby. The service said it has lost £1m over the last financial year, 2020 to 2021 - just under half of its £2.25m annual income.

The huts which make up the Bewerley Park estate were built as temporary structures in 1939, with an expected life span of ten to twenty years. Created mainly from wood, they have become increasingly expensive to maintain, requiring frequent repairs.

Given the investment needed at both sites, the review will look at bringing the service back after the pandemic in a sustainable way.

Cllr Patrick Mulligan, Executive Member for Education and Skills said: “At the moment Bewerley Park and East Barnby are used largely by primary schools offering week-long residential trips involving outdoor activities such as canoeing, gorge-walking and caving.

“The review will look at what kind of activities we provide in the future, how we use the estate, the facilities we provide and how we make it a sustainable service. We’re looking at this from every angle – including whether we need to work collaboratively with partners in the future, or if we are able to continue with the service as it is.”

A questionnaire is also being sent to all schools in North Yorkshire, include primary, secondary, special schools, academies and Pupil Referral Services to understand which aspects of outdoor education are most important and what they would want from the service in the future. Focus discussion groups are taking place with secondary pupils, while primary school children who have visited one of the outdoor centres will be taking part in an art session looking at what worked, what could have been better and what their ideal setting would look like.

A user group has been established, to consult with organisations and agencies that have some involvement with Bewerley Park and East Barnby, along with a project board.

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