After several weeks of largely constructive talks, we met again last night with staff from the Department for Education to hear of the Secretary of State’s decision regarding guidance to schools on residential visits and other school trips with overnight accommodation. 

Unfortunately, there is to be no change for the Autumn term, with ongoing sector engagement to inform a structured review in November – this with a view to amending guidance to schools for overnight visits with effect from January 2021. We are continuing to work with the Department to establish a formal structure for the review and confirm a meeting with Public Health England on future changes to guidance. 

This is disappointing but should not dissuade us from our drive to reopen. From here, it is imperative that we do two things in the short term:

  • Firstly, ensure that our customers understand the decision and the potential for 2021 reopening. I would like to ensure we are positive and do not unduly impact potential booking further.
  • Secondly, we position ourselves well both politically and publicly for the November review. I am clear that in the lead up to the Review, people must understand the plight of our sector and the extreme need for reopening.

To that end, we will be drafting two communications for next week: one to customers and one as a sector impact press release. I will be providing those drafts for your approval very soon. Until then, I ask that you remain tight lipped. 

I am disappointed that we cannot communicate better news at this time and can only assure you that we will continue to do everything we can to establish the basis for this decision and challenge the guidance that is decimating our sector and removing vital opportunities for children to learn and develop at a time when they need it most.


The petition has now had almost 16k signatories in a week and please keep sharing the petition to continue building the inovolvement in the campaign. https://www.change.org/saveyouroutdoorcentres

Twitter account – @saveyouroutdoo1 – please follow if you haven’t already. 

Newspaper coverage has included a range of national and local papers, listed below: 






TV and radio coverage:

Channel 5 – https://twitter.com/search?q=%23SaveYourOutdoorCentres&src=recent_search_click

BBC Out of Doors programme – 12th Sept – https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000mjd5 approx. 43 mins in. 

STV have completed filming and we are waiting to hear when they will broadcast. 

Bauer Network – not sure when they broadcast a piece about this campaign 

Heart Radio 

MSP meetings:

Donald Cameron

Kate Forbes

Liz Smith 

Ian Blackford 

Andy Wightman has written a blog piece about this campaign. 


Liz Smith has managed to arrange a debate in parliament about this topic on 22nd Sept. I will let you know the time of the debate shortly. 


Wider Organisation support

Children 1st

John Muir Trust 

Youthlink Scotland 

DofE Scotland

Ramblers Scotland

Real World Riding 


Highlighting the situation of outdoor residential centres during the current Coronavirus crisis, and, as reported in last week’s OIA newsletter, the Chair of the Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres (AHOEC), Jim Whittaker, urges the outdoor industry to get behind the campaign to save outdoor centres from closure and their staff from redundancy.  To help create awareness of the issue, AHOEC has created a Facebook page to encourage and support the grass roots movement. You can also find out HERE their current guidances for your information.

Commenting on such a critical time for Outdoor Education Centres Jim Whittaker commented, “UK Outdoors organisations are part of a small group representing the residential activity, outdoor learning and school travel provider base that has been working with senior staff at the Department for Education in an attempt to understand and inform guidance to schools. The Secretary of State now has a cross-department recommendation to consider, worked up by those key DfE staff with whom we’ve been talking.  We have not seen this recommendation and don’t know what it says.

We have coordinated a dozen or so letters direct to Mr Williamson from key organisations and bodies across the sector to urge him to consider this recommendation and update guidance to schools to support school leaders in decision making and young people in learning in the new school term – and to save our valuable residential provision from this ongoing desperate situation.  We really are waiting now but hope to be able to share some news soon.  We are in the hands of whatever the recommendation says, and the response to it.

AHOEC has created a petition which is going well and only needs a couple of thousand more signatures to trigger government response.  The petition is available HERE and the outdoor sector is encouraged to support the campaign by signing the petition and sharing with their customers, suppliers and even their local MP.

In Scotland the situation is different and we would ask you to support the #saveyouroutdoorcentres campaign that has been launched today as well. The twitter account is now live HERE, please follow it and share with your networks, and the hashtag is #saveyouroutdoorscentres – please use the hashtag in any posts or correspondence.

Finally, OIA members Outward Bound still remain closed for residentials and are looking for partnerships, and help – please get their latest updates HERE

For further information please contact:
Jim Whittaker, Chair AHOEC jim@ahoec.org  07973 525639 www.ahoec.org
For #saveyouroutdoorscentres –  Jane Campbell Morrison  chair@thesaaf.org.uk
For Outward Bound Alex Bennett alex.bennett@outwardbound.org.uk