North Yorkshire County Council has launched a new Outdoor Learning Service which can offer at least one week of outdoor education for every North Yorkshire pupil.
The new service will continue to provide high quality adventurous and challenging activities through a partnership agreement with North Yorkshire’s schools.
The local authority has long been proud of its outdoor education service and has maintained four outdoor education centres for many years – a generous entitlement for the county’s children at a time when many local authorities were closing centres across the country.
However, as a result of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review last December, the county council must find £69 million in savings over the next four years with the majority of that amount to be found in the next two years. As part of this requirement The Children and Young People’s Service must find over £19 million, with nearly three quarters of this amount to be found within the first two years.
As a result the service has embarked on a Savings and Transformation Strategy looking at every aspect of its work in a bid to protect frontline services wherever possible. In many cases it is looking to deliver services as innovatively and efficiently as possible, particularly where these are discretionary, like outdoor education.
For the Outdoor Education Service this has meant a withdrawal of the county council’s £l million subsidy and the decision to close two of the smaller centres – Great Fryupdale on the North York Moors and Humphrey Head Centre near Grange over Sands, Cumbria – from the four centres currently in operation. Bewerley Park near Pateley Bridge and East Barnby near Whitby will form the core of the new Outdoor Learning Service which will begin next September.
The authority has consulted widely with schools in order to be able to retain an outdoor education service which it views as of enormous benefit to the county’s children. The School’s Forum, which represents North Yorkshire schools, has therefore agreed to allocate a small amount of money from the dedicated schools grant to support the service in order to maintain an outdoor education entitlement for every child in the county.
County councillor John Watson, North Yorkshire’s executive member for schools said: “”We have set great store in North Yorkshire by the fact that all the county’s children have had the opportunity while at school of enjoying high quality and adventurous activities through our outdoor education service. Although the county council has had to make some very tough budgetary decisions we are pleased that through this partnership with schools we have been able to protect this precious entitlement.”