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“Outdoor centres are gateways to positive experiences which are otherwise closed to many”

As the 'Save Your Outdoor Centres Campaign’ continues to agree a fund that will support the long-term sustainability of outdoor residential centres, we hear from Morven Bayton, MSYP for Scouts Scotland about why they are so vital for children and young people’s wellbeing and their futures.

I’ve been lucky that I’ve had the chance to go to many outdoor centres across Scotland, including Fordell Firs and Lendrick Muir. Through these residentials I've met many people who I would never have crossed paths with otherwise and grown in ways I never could have imagined.

Outdoor centres can provide the basis for friendships and for many of us, provide some of our key (and favourite) memories of growing up through school.

But it’s about a lot more than just creating happy memories. It’s the opportunity to do something challenging and to learn to be resilient. It’s a place for those who struggle in a traditional academic environment to thrive. These experiences can teach skills that are valuable for young people in every aspect of their lives, from resilience to teamwork, to problem solving. And once outdoors, you discover completely new aspects in yourself and in others that you never dreamt existed.

Lockdown has been hard, particularly on young people like me, and I know that many are struggling with their mental health. Evidence shows that going on a residential experience has a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing. Even though residentials cannot take place right now we need to safeguard these centres so they are there as we emerge from the pandemic.

Being outdoors and surrounded by the natural world holds many benefits for mental health generally, including reduction of anxiety and stress. Outdoor centres are gateways to positive experiences that are otherwise closed to many young people. If these gateways are no longer an option, with the likelihood that they might be closed forever, this vital passage to the outdoors may never be available to young people again.

I’m so pleased that £2 million has been announced for residential outdoor centres, although I understand that this might only see them through the next few months. I hope this means that they can redeploy staff to work with schools and teachers to help deliver meaningful outdoor education. At a time where teachers and pupils are struggling with the return to school, having the opportunity to take lessons outside in a fun and engaging way would be good for everyone.

I also hope the funding will help with the core costs which increasing numbers of outdoor centres cannot afford. The closures have already started and I was so especially sad to see that Girlguiding's Netherrud centre will not reopen. I hope this money will get to the centres that are most in need as quickly as possible.

My memories from going to Fordell Firs and Lendrick Muir are memories that I treasure. We cannot risk endangering young people's opportunity to create these memories for themselves. Over the past seven months young people have missed out on so much, we cannot let the chance to go on a school camp and residential trips be yet another thing that we miss out on.

Morven Bayton, MYSP for Scouts Scotland

The #SaveYourOutdoorCentres campaign launched on 8 September 2020 with a petition asking the Scottish Government to provide urgent financial support to Save Scotland’s Outdoor Residential Centres. Six weeks later, the Scottish Government responded with the announcement of £2m of emergency funding to cover costs this winter.

The campaign has brought together organisations from across the outdoor education sector including The Outward Bound Trust, The Institute for Outdoor Learning, The Field Studies Council and Scouts Scotland.  So far it has gained the support of more than 35 organisations, including Children in Scotland, and more than 23,500 people have signed the petition.

Click here to find out more about Scouts Scotland and their outdoor centres.

About the author

Morven Bayton is one of two MSYPs for Scouts Scotland and Secretary of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP)

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