Kids Outdoors - Image - courtesy of Phil Thompson, Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre

Image - courtesy of Phil Thompson, Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre



UK Outdoors creates one voice and the best support for individuals and organisations in the outdoor learning and adventure world.



UK Outdoors is the industry body for outdoor learning, representing over 5000 individuals and organisations in the outdoor & environmental education and adventure world.



Outdoor learning changes lives and provides opportunities for all students, regardless of background. The sector holds a pivotal role in supporting schools to develop students’ social and mental health wellbeing through adventure and engagement with the natural environment.



The outdoor learning sector delivers formative educational experiences to at least 5m students across the UK every year. The sector provides over 15,000 jobs and £700m to the UK economy.



For media enquiries please contact media@ukoutdoors.org.uk




As you know we have been running a campaign to raise awareness of the terrible challenges the outdoor education sector has faced over the last 12 months because of COVID and the effective closure of outdoor residential visits by the Government. In mid-March, the Department for Education has committed to reviewing its guidance and, as part of a wider school travel sector initiative, we have submitted an operational framework to facilitate that, along with proposals for financial support and a Government-backed insurance scheme to help enable the sector to reopen and survive. In the coming weeks we therefore need to put as much pressure as we can to keep the sector and our proposals at the top of the Department for Education’s agenda.

To that end, we are writing an open letter to Boris Johnson calling on him for his support for the sector and its reopening in time for the summer term. We need as many organisations and high profile people as possible to agree to add their name to this. If you are happy to share through your network, can you please ask all your centre managers to send their name, centre name and logo to lowe@montfort.london who will be compiling the final letter.

In addition, if you have any high profile Patrons, Trustees or friends / supporters that you know have an interest in outdoor education and may want to add their name, please approach them too.

Could you please make sure that you have sent your list of names etc to us by Thursday 4 March 2021, so that we can compile ready for submission to Number 10 the following week.

Many thanks for your support.

Open Letter to Boris Johnson Draft for Signature

Evidence shows that learning in the outdoors, particularly when including residential and adventurous experiences, is beneficial for mental health and wellbeing, reducing the attainment gap, and developing a connection to and care for the natural environment.

However, all of these have been negatively impacted by the pandemic amid funding concerns.

The recent Lockdown Lowdown report by Youthlink showed that around two fifths of young people surveyed were concerned about their mental health and wellbeing.

Scouts Scotland president Mollie Hughes, who became the youngest woman to climb both sides of Mount Everest and the youngest woman to ski solo to the South Pole, and Mark, who holds the record for cycling round the world in less than 79 days, say action needs to be taken to ensure the survival of outdoor education centres – and they believe access should be embedded for all in the Scottish curriculum.

Mark Beaumont BEM, a former Dundee High School pupil, said: “Young people have had their lives turned upside down over the last year, they have missed school and seeing their friends and their mental health has been impacted."

Mollie, who enjoyed outdoor education as a youngster in Devon, said: “Residential outdoor education has never been more important for young people. The chance to be away from home, experiencing the great outdoors with all of it’s challenges and rewards is invaluable to their development."

The vision paper published by a number of Scotland’s residential outdoor centres has cross party support from MSPs Liz Smith, Alison Johnstone, Iain Gray, Fulton McGregor and Liam McArthur.

The vision seeks to ensure that residential outdoor learning is embedded across the curriculum, and that all young people benefit in both primary and secondary school.

The vision paper was written by The Outward Bound Trust, Scottish Outdoor Education Centres, Scouts Scotland, Actual Reality Trust/Ardentinny Outdoor Centre, Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre, Abernethy Trust, Ocean Youth Trust and the Field Studies Council. It is also supported by Children in Scotland, the Association of Headteachers and Deputies, PlayScotland, Youthlink Scotland, RYA Scotland, The Awards Network and Ramblers Scotland.

Read the full report in The Courier...

Help us capture the range of outdoor learning opportunities provided that have been supporting those in education during the Covid-19 pandemic. Please participate in a short survey.

Throughout the past year, despite the guidance against residential outdoor education visits, many outdoor learning professionals have continued to work with pupils and students either as part of school/campus based or off-site teaching and learning. As we all look towards the future and UK governments consider their responses to close the attainment gap, it is critical the sector can promote and share the breadth of our capability and the value of outdoor learning experiences.

The survey closes at 5pm on March 4th.

Complete the Working in Education during Covid-19 Survey

Management and Governance - Interim Management Group established

January saw the first meeting of the UK Outdoors Management Group designed to drive forward the formal creation of UK Outdoors. This has evolved from the Transformation Group and is structured with 2 representatives from each organisation (IOL, AHOEC, BAPA, Outdoor Council) with additional representation from the Scottish Adventure Activities Forum and Outdoor Alliance Wales and AHOEC (NI). Wider contributions from across the UK is one of our current foci.

Governance and business structure are being developed carefully with focus on creating the best offer for members of each organisation; retaining and improving benefits; developing an effective sector voice; supporting current development work such as professional recognition and chartered status. UK Outdoors Professional Recognition is now available to all members through their organisations – for example here and here.

Member Organisations - Outdoor Council

As one of the organisations within UK Outdoors, OC is now actively exploring how the existing functions currently undertaken by the Council can be best served and, indeed, developed to support the needs of its members. The work of the Council is currently focused on supporting the needs of the Outdoor and Adventurous Learning sector during the health emergency and is doing what it can, within its limited means, to ‘make the case’ at a strategic and political level for support across our sector. The Outdoor Council has effectively drawn together a broad stakeholder group from across and beyond our sector. This function is one that sits well under UK Outdoors and will benefit from all the support a larger organisation would bring.

All nation working – ‘the outdoors knows no borders’

Ensuring that there is effective and meaningful input from across the nations of the UK is central in the overall development of UK Outdoors. It is vitally important to recognise that there is a need to work at a UK-wide level while also recognising that each nation, within the UK, is best placed to support its own sector. However, purely focusing within a nation will not always be the answer and a united approach; realisation of a bigger picture and the value in learning from others are the real drivers for us all working in the outdoors across the UK. It is hoped that UK Outdoors can provide a place where wider collaboration and celebration of diversity can occur. Not only continued representation but wider representation from across the UK nations will be sought. We will be all the richer for it.

School Travel Sector Stakeholder Group

UK Outdoors members are heavily involved in supporting the DfE in its Review on the restart of residential educational visits in England. In supporting the wider sector (that includes School Tours abroad, Overseas Expeditions and Sail Training) the group is also trying to address issues around school travel insurance related to COVID, financial support for residential centres and providing both guidance and a COVID Safe Charter to operate by.

UK Outdoors recently produced a generic Communications plan to help both the work of the STSSG and also the #SaveOutdoorEd campaign in England / Wales. Members are actively supporting this campaign and working with colleagues in Scotland and Northern Ireland to learn and share campaign experiences.

Associated with the DfE work is the financial support case for centres affected by the ongoing DfE guidance to English schools. The most recent survey of members across all our organisations closes on the 3rd February and we expect the data from this to underpin a request for sector funding from HM Treasury through DCMS.

All Party Parliamentary Group for Outdoor Learning

This growing group of MPs, chaired by Robin Millar MP and Tim Farron MP, is informed by UK Outdoors representation. It has had significant influence in raising the value of outdoor learning in parliament and lobbying the Secretary of State on residential visits guidance. Current development of a more formal advisory group to the APPG is being undertaken by UK Outdoors.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

UK Outdoors organisations have collaborated and jointly funded work in this area which has seen exciting and positive development.

The recent launch of the INclusivity in the OUTdoors webinar series was a huge success with some 290 tickets reserved for the first online event. See more about this work here.

Climate Change Agenda

Work continues in a cross-organisation group to develop sector responses and initiatives to the climate crisis. Current work underway is looking at an accessible evolution of the Eco-Schools model for outdoor providers to enable children, young people and families to transfer learning and experience between school, community and outdoor experiences. Our sector has a unique offer to make in terms of providing space and context for the understanding of this arguably most important crisis of all.

Inspection and Accreditation

UK Outdoors is working closely with Adventure UK and HSE to develop a non-statutory scheme to replace adventurous activities licensing. This is currently planned for March 2023 with the possibility of extension to March 2025.

AHOEC and BAPA continue to develop a comprehensive support, evaluation and accreditation offer for outdoor providers and this work is a focus for UK Outdoors.

Wider Collaboration

Throughout the past months of challenge in our sector, one of the positive outcomes has been that of open collaboration. This has not just driven much internal cohesion within our member organisations but also encouraged constructive dialogue further afield. The Outdoor Industries Association is a non-profit organisation advocating and representing the outdoor recreation sector that has always been close to our world and incredibly supportive. We are working to strengthen these bonds and develop a strong message that places the outdoors not in two camps but in the centre of one. Learning and recreation go hand in hand. The OIA newsletter is extremely interesting and informative – subscribe here.


The Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) supports businesses that are not covered by other grant schemes or where additional funding is needed - updated 21st January.

The information on Additional Restrictions Grants has been update. These grants are administered by local authorities. If any members are eligible according to the criteria, have applied and are still unable to access the grant, UKOutdoors will approach the authority as a national representative body.

Email : info@ukoutdoors.org.uk

Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG)


Local councils have the freedom to determine the eligibility criteria for these grants. However, we expect the funding to help those businesses which – while not legally forced to close – are nonetheless severely impacted by the restrictions.

This could include:

-businesses which supply the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors

-businesses in the tourism and events sectors

-business required to close but which do not pay business rates


The UKOutdoors group will continue to work on your behalf and provide regular updates. If you have any queries or suggestions please contact us at institute@outdoor-learning.org or info@ukoutdoors.org.uk

Financial Support

On the basis of the points above it is very clear now that the sector is in desperate need of financial assistance if we are to retain our educational Infrastructure that supports Outdoor Learning in the UK. As a sector we are almost unique in having effectively been closed for some 10 months. Though Job Retention Scheme, CBILS, BBLS and a variety of local and national restrictions grants have provided support for some so far, this is clearly not sufficient to ensure the survival of providers that depend upon school residentials especially, as we approach 12 months of effective closure. Sector lobbying priority has been a change to Government guidance with the addition of specific financial support to enable us to work our way through this. However that can no longer be the case. In addition to the progress made in Scotland representatives are now committed to approaching Department for Culture Media & Sport and the Welsh Assembly directly, with detailed financial impact information and a request for funding. You will shortly receive a financial survey to gather the data needed for this.

Centre Closures

As you'll be aware the sector is experiencing the closure of centres and other providers on top of those that were under review prior to COVID impacts. It is clear from recent sector surveys that this was a financially robust sector the restrictions associated with the pandemic are the primary reasons for the temporary or permanent closures. Attached is an update which, with respect to the sensitivities around this is still indicative of the current situation. Many thanks to those that have contacted us with information in such difficult times to build a picture.

School Travel Sector Stakeholder Group

This working group was formed in December to work with the Department for Education on the roadmap to re-starting residentials. The focus remains on the February review by DfE, and on preparing for that. The spread of the virus, emergence of new variants and the national lockdown now have placed significant pressure and uncertainty on the process but at present timescales for the review are unchanged. We do, however, recognise that guidance on overnight educational visits can only follow the wider health situation, success of the vaccination programme and the reopening of schools. We are currently considering a request to DfE to hold the review off until the end of February at the earliest in order to offer the best possible conditions for a favourable decision.
An update from the STSSG with details of work ongoing.


Robin Millar MP and Tim Fallon MP have been co-chairing the new APPG for Outdoor Learning and it has much support from MPs and parliamentarians. Plas y Brenin is providing the secretariat function and together we are now developing an advisory group to the APPG within UK Outdoors to support this. This is important as it allows us to raise the profile of the urgency and plight of our sector at a parliamentary level as well as build foundations for developing cross-party understanding of our sector and the value it provides.

Save Outdoor Education Campaign #SaveOutdoorEd

The media campaign run by several of you has gained much traction and has been invaluable in providing information and encouraging support from the public for our sector. It has coordinated regional communications, distribution of banners and provided much needed support and communications opportunities for providers. It has led the social media presence and narrative to inform those outside our world of our situation and what is under threat. It's difficult to see how progress such as the formation and work of the APPG could ever have been made without the concerted efforts of those colleagues who have given their time and commitment despite the effects of the situation on their own businesses. An update from the campaign specifically will be shared this week.

Reports sent to the DfE on December 17th

Outdoor Learning COVID-19 Impact Survey III - The Effects on Residential Outdoor Learning Providers


Demand report from the School Travel Sector Stakeholder Group


The two reports can be downloaded below...


Outdoor Learning COVID-19 Impact Survey III The Effects on Residential Outdoor Learning Providers

Reporting context

The impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt across all areas of an Outdoor Learning sector that provides over 15,000 jobs and £700m to the UK economy.The first and second COVID-19 Impact Surveys for the sector estimated lost revenue of £275M until mid 2021, and each day over 70,000 under 18s and 20,000 over 18s have been missing out on valuable outdoor learning experiences. This survey has been specifically requested by the DfE to provide informed evidence about the immediate and future support requirements of the varied domestic residential outdoor learning business models in the UK. We recognise that whilst education is a devolved issue for Home Nations, ownership or responsibility for outdoor learning organisations and their education services can be UK wide. The findings of this survey are essential in supporting support our sector dialogue with UK Gov and the work streams with DfE & STSSG.

Download the report...


A demand report from the School Travel Sector Stakeholder Group

An overview of the latent demand for school residential visits

In order to gain a rapid understanding of the latent demand in schools for residential visits a single question was circulated by Outdoor Education Advisers across England to schools: * If guidance and health & safety considerations allow, when would you/your school expect to run your next residential visit?

Download the report...

While Government restrictions make the normal operation of Residential Centres impossible, we implore them to provide financial assistance to help this viable & worthwhile industry survive this period of forced closure.

Without the government's assistance, there is a very real danger that the industry will not survive.

This is an unthinkable outcome for the millions of people who will lose out on the life changing experience gained from visiting these centres. For many, this will be the first and only time they are involved in the activities on offer. It is vital the industry receives support now so it can be ready for when the time is right to open. The outdoor industry can play a key role in helping improve people's physical and mental health which have been so negatively affected by this pandemic.

After considerable work with the Department for Education, support from MPs and tireless campaigning from centres, providers, schools and others across the country, we have received news of the Secretary of State's decision on guidance to schools. As a consequence of the high prevalence of coronavirus across the country, the advice will remain unchanged.

The Government has, however, publicly recognised the enormous benefits the sector provides for children’s wellbeing, as well as the expertise and skills within it - and is committed to now working with us on a roadmap to an Easter 2021 restart for residential outdoor education.

From next week, we, as part of a newly formed School Travel Sector Stakeholder Group (STSSG), will be working with the Department and building the roadmap for the restart of residentials, including:

  1. A full framework for the safe reintroduction of domestic residential visits
  2. Approval of sector COVID-safe protocols
  3. Public Health England’s scientific guidance
  4. Interim holiday cancellation insurance
  5. Raising the profile of outdoor education’s positive contribution to children’s wellbeing across Government Departments and External Organisations

Whilst the news that the current guidance remains in place is not what we had hoped for, we are encouraged by the change in tone and attitude from the Department. We hope that for many this news will provide some clarity and some sense of certainty for customers and for business planning.

We recognise that Easter remains a distant prospect, and we will be canvassing to understand the specific financial impact of the loss of 12 months of revenue. We will be raising the financial impact with the Department for Education and exploring potential support.

We will continue to regularly update you on the progress of the STSSG and our work on each of the areas outlined above.

We cannot thank you and your teams enough for the support to date. Your campaigning is tipping the balance and making Government and politicians take note of our sector’s outstanding contribution.

UK Outdoors Team

Our campaign to restart our sector continues to gather pace, recognition and political support and your continued actions and campaigning on social media, letter writing and everything else has been invaluable. As we continue to ratchet up the pressure, I have a brief update for you and some further actions that will help the campaign immeasurably.

How you can support the campaign

As the Review looks to report, we need one big push from our centres and providers to show the value of outdoor ed and the importance of changing the guidance. On top of your already fantastic work, we ask that you do one or both of the below:

  1. Write to your MP asking them to join the APPG

    I have attached a short template letter that can be used by centres or providers to contact their local MP and push for further action and support. Please send this as soon as possible. if you require any help or additional information please do not hesitate to ask.

  2. Post your support on social media

    I have provided some draft tweets below for use on social media, building on the brilliant work of the #saveoutdoored campaign.

    Please ensure that, as we build political pressure, you @ your local MPs to encourage them to support the campaign or pressure the Government.

    Tweet/Post 1 (include picture/infographic/RT of choice)

    Outdoor education is under threat. We need to save our centres and give children a chance to enjoy the great outdoors with its unlimited health benefits.

    Please @localmp help @localcentre and support @robinmillar (full handle required) and @timfarronmp (full handle required) Outdoor Learning APPG as we look to restart outdoor education.


    Tweet/Post 2 (include picture/infographic/RT of choice)

    We have to act now to save our outdoor education centres. The Government must let schools and children take advantage of the great outdoors.

    @localMP please support your local centre and community

    Change the guidance. Save Outdoor Education


DfE Review Update

The Department for Education Review of current guidance has been underway for the past two weeks and is due to provide its advice to the Secretary of State a the start of next week. In line with the Department’s timetable we are expecting a decision before the end of November.

While we have been encouraged by the willingness of the Department to openly discuss issues with current guidance and explore the route forward, we remain cautious on an immediate restart. The conversation has focussed on putting in place an effective roadmap for the sector to reopen safely early next year. The Department understand our sector’s issues and a significant part of any move forward will be around providing confidence to and communication with schools. To that end, the Department are creating an active working group with members of the sector and key officials to manage the challenges the sector faces.

We are confident that with continued pressure and strong advocacy we can work closely with the Department to deliver the restart we all want. I will update you as soon as we have any indication of a result from the process.

All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Update

The newly formed Outdoor Learning APPG had its first meeting on 4th November 2020. The new group of MPs will be a vital part of our continued effort to persuade Government to change its guidance on residential visits. Furthermore, the group will provide valuable long-term political support to our sector, driving understanding of the value of outdoor learning and seeking a more formal role for outdoor learning within education.

The group will now be making representations to the Department for Education regarding this guidance as part of the review and are seeking a ministerial meeting.

The APPG membership currently includes the below MPs. If your local MP is not a member please encourage them to join and support our campaign to Save Outdoor Education.

Robin Millar MP

Tim Farron MP

Richard Drax MP

Jessica Morden MP

Hywel Williams MP

Nusrat Ghani MP

Duncan Baker MP

Virginia Crosbie MP

Neil Hudson MP

Simon Baynes MP

Liz Savile Roberts MP

I would like to thank UK Outdoors and Plas Y Brenin for their work to date on this and hope we keep up the pressure.

As ever, if you have any questions on the campaign please do not hesitate to get in touch with us on info@ukoutdoors.org.uk

Andy Robinson

Tim Farron said "Outdoor education centres help young people's mental health, confidence and learning, but many are on the brink of collapse partly because of the Government's ban on schools running residential trips. Glad that today the Health Secretary agreed to my request to review that ban.Outdoor education centres help young people's mental health, confidence and learning, but many are on the brink of collapse partly because of the Government's ban on schools running residential trips. Glad that today the Health Secretary agreed to my request to review that ban."

Tim's video, can be seen on Twitter, of his call to the Secretary of State for Education, in Parliament, to review the ban on residential school visits and change the DfE advice.

Matt Hancock agreed to review the ban on educational overnight stays with Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education.

We very much hope that the review makes the change to allow the sector to reopen this vital aspect of outdoor learning.

The DfE review of guidance to schools on overnight visits started last week with the arrangement of meetings for this week between sector representatives and DfE staff. Staff at DfE are taking this very seriously and will spend the first part of the review gathering information and understanding the position of the sector on several key issues. We expect this review to be complete and to inform a report for the Secretary of State before the end of November. A very important aspect of this review is a sector rebuttal of the PHE position on the covid-safety of overnight visits to outdoor centres.

There has been considerable MP support for our campaign and we're happy to announce that an All Party Parliamentary Group on Outdoor Learning is to be set up. In the short term of course the focus is on saving the residential outdoor education provider base but this is a very significant development for Outdoor Learning more widely and in the long term. The APPG will be chaired by Robin Millar MP with vice chair Tim Farron MP and several others.

We have put together updated materials for you to use in communications this week.

  1. Response to the PHE position (ie the 5 points that we all received in reply to letters to MPs). This should support your conversations with the media and provide consistency in messaging.
  2. A template letter to your MP that provides an update on the DfE review (now started), an update on the formation of the APPG for Outdoor Learning and information on how they can support and where to find our petition, social media campaign, etc. Please use this to write afresh to your MP.
  3. A trustee outreach letter template. Do please use this to leverage the support of your trustees, patrons and high profile supporters.

Thank you all very much for applying continued pressure as we move into the DfE review and a huge thank you to the #saveoutdoored team for ongoing and developing social media narrative.

The sector is continuing discussions with Government on the restarting of overnight educational visits. The Government has agreed to a formal review of the current guidance in November 2020, with a view to a managed, safe and Covid-secure return in 2021. The review will provide an opportunity for the whole sector to engage with Government departments and relevant agencies to inform the review, address any remaining barriers and ultimately reopen educational visits.

As valued customers and service users, we would welcome schools support, too, in further stressing the importance of educational visits. Ensuring all children and young people can benefit from these rich and varied educational experiences is imperative to helping students, schools and the education sector recover from Covid.

£2 million package of support.

The Scottish Government will provide £2 million of funding to mitigate the financial challenges facing the residential outdoor education sector as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

The package will include funding to help centres provide safe, impactful outdoor learning experiences to support young people’s education and wellbeing through this challenging period.

Help for residential outdoor education centres




Thanks to Tim Farron MP for his question to Boris Johnson on restarting outdoor education. Our sector has so much to contribute to children and young people in the recovery.

The Prime Minister has said its safe and we hope the Government and @educationgovuk will put in place our roadmap to restarting the sector for the Summer Term #saveoutdoored

Watch Tim Farron's question to Boris Johnson...


10th February 2021 - UK Outdoors, the industry body for outdoor learning and activities, announces that, in conjunction with the School Travel Sector Stakeholder Group (“STSSG”), it has submitted to Rt Hon Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State, and the Department for Education, a roadmap for the phased restart of domestic educational visits after Easter, over a year after visits were suspended by government guidance in March 2020.

Read the UK Outdoors Restart Press Release

Sky News

COVID-19: Outdoor learning centres could be 'lost forever' if not included on PM's roadmap out of lockdown. The PM is urged to allow outdoor learning organisations to restart residential stays, as he looks towards easing restrictions.

Tom Parmenter
News correspondent

Read the Full Report

Overnight education trips should be allowed to resume after Easter, having been suspended in the lockdown, say outdoor learning leaders. Outdoor education has a vital role in rebuilding children's confidence and mental health after months indoors, they argue. But centres have been closed for nearly a year, with thousands of jobs lost.

The School Travel Sector Stakeholder Group warns that the sector could be "snuffed out". "Our industry is on a knife edge," warns Andy Robinson, chief executive of the Institute for Outdoor Learning. "If no action is taken and no additional support is provided, the sector stands to lose all its 16,000 jobs, snuffing out a vital British industry."

A government spokesman said England's guidance on residential school trips would be reviewed this month. Read the BBC News Report...

On ITV Border News yesterday, IOL CEO Andy Robinson highlighted the devastation that remaining closed, and with no financial support, amid Covid-19 restrictions is having on the outdoor education sector.

The Department for Education has listened to the Campaign to Save Outdoor Education and decided it can't allow residential visits based on scientific evidence. It'll review in February and look towards a reopening at Easter. That clarity has been welcomed by many but it isn't the news they were hoping for.

Residentials are for many their bread and butter and without the lion's share of their business for 13 months many are expected to make 20-30% of staff redundant, some more. Some may go under.

The Government says it's offering businesses unprecedented financial support but the SaveOutdoorEd campaign says 15,000 jobs are at risk across the country with 6,000 expected to be made redundant by the end of the year. That doesn't even count all the freelance instructors who've been out of work since March. But behind those numbers are individual stories.... Film report link...

UK Outdoors to work with Government to finalise framework for safe restart

National Association of Head Teachers stresses benefits of outdoor education to children’s mental health

Decision comes after completion of Department for Education’s November review

Easter restart still threatens the future of some centres and additional financial support must be explored

UK Outdoors, the industry body for outdoor learning, today welcomes the Government’s decision to put a roadmap in place to restart the sector in Easter 2021.

From next week, UK Outdoors, as part of the newly formed School Travel Sector Stakeholder Group (STSSG), will be working with the Department for Education and building the roadmap for the restart of residentials in Easter 2021, including:

  1. A full framework for the safe reintroduction of domestic residential visits
  2. Approval of sector COVID-safe protocols
  3. Public Health England’s scientific guidance
  4. Interim holiday cancellation insurance
  5. Raising the profile of outdoor education’s positive contribution to children’s wellbeing across Government Departments and External Organisations

UK Outdoors also welcomes the recognition of the contribution of outdoor education in the Government’s updated guidance, which stated: “we recognise the enormous benefits overnight residential educational visits can provide and the expertise and skills of those working in this sector that enable students to benefit from those visits.”

By the time of restarting, the outdoor education sector will have gone for over a year with no meaningful revenue, unlike almost every other industry in the UK through this pandemic. Over 6,000 permanent jobs have already been lost, with some centres and the other 9,000 jobs still at risk without additional support. UK Outdoors will be making representations to Government about the extent of those at risk and proposing options for further support for some centres.

Andy Robinson, CEO of the Institute for Outdoor Learning, commented on the Easter restart:

“The Government are clearly listening and having a target for restart is positive. I am hugely encouraged that we have put in place an open and collaborative process for getting the industry going. It is also great to see an acknowledgement of the value and expertise our sector brings to education provision in this country. Some centres are still at risk and we must look at the best way to support them, but for many I hope this news will provide clear light at the end of what has been a very dark tunnel and give more certainty to our clients and beneficiaries.”

Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said:

“The potential loss of outdoor education could have a profound impact on the education and mental wellbeing of the nation’s young people, particularly after the challenging year that they have just endured. Today’s decision is a big step forward on the road to saving that provision and securing the benefits it can deliver for future generations of children.”

Recent campaigning work from outdoor education centres across the country and #saveoutdoored campaign has highlighted the plight of outdoor education centres in the UK. A newly formed Parliamentary group of MPs, the APPG for Outdoor Learning led by Tim Farron MP and Robin Millar MP, has also supported the campaign to restart the outdoor education sector and residential visits.

UK Outdoors represents over 5,000 organisations and individuals providing formative educational experiences for schools and students both domestically and overseas. The industry contributes over £700m to the economy every year, and employs over 15,000 people around the UK.

Media Enquiries

UK Outdoors
Andy Robinson
Jim Whittaker
c/o Montfort Communications

Nick Bastin bastin@montfort.london
+44 (0) 7931 500 066

Woolf Thomson Jones woolf@montfort.london
+44 (0) 7376 392 693

Notes to Editors

About UK Outdoors

UK Outdoors is the industry body for outdoor learning, representing over 5000 individuals and organisations in the outdoor & environmental education and adventure world. We deliver one voice and the best support for individuals and organisations throughout the sector.

Outdoor learning changes lives and provides opportunities for all students, regardless of background. The sector holds a pivotal role in supporting schools to develop students’ social and mental health wellbeing through adventure and engagement with the natural environment.

The outdoor learning sector delivers formative educational experiences to at least 5m students across the UK every year. The sector provides over 15,000 jobs and £700m to the UK economy.

About the School Travel Sector Stakeholder Group (STSSG)

Following the review of guidance on overnight educational visits (the “Review”), the Department for Education (“DfE”) has convened a School Travel Sector Stakeholder Group (the “Stakeholder Group”) to continue to represent the sector’s interests and address potential challenges ahead of the sector’s restart in Easter 2021. The Stakeholder Group is made up of representatives drawn from the educational visits and travel sector and come from industry bodies, trade associations and providers. The participants invited by the DfE are:

  • ABTA – The Travel Association
  • AHOEC – Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres
  • AITO – Association of Independent Tour Operators
  • BAPA – British Activity Providers Association
  • CLOTC – Council for Learning Outside the Classroom
  • EPA – Expedition Providers Association
  • IOL – Institute for Outdoor Learning
  • Outdoor Council
  • OEAP – Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel
  • PGL
  • STF – School Travel Forum
  • Tall Ships Youth Trust

The Stakeholder Group expects all its members to understand the views of their constituents and ensure they are fully represented.

The Stakeholder Group is clear that building school confidence to plan overnight educational visits for the Summer term is now our priority, to ensure that students can access this vital educational asset now and in to the future. Supporting the residential sector to restart at Easter will save thousands of jobs, livelihoods and educational visits providers. Such educational visits – well evidenced for supporting physical and mental health, socio-emotional and cognitive outcomes - have a huge role to play in the recovery of our society and our children and young people from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DfE and Stakeholder Group will focus on the following workstreams in the coming months

  • Developing a Road Map for the safe reintroduction for overnight educational visits
  • Raise the profile of the overnight educational visits and the unique contribution they make to children’s education
  • Build confidence among schools to reengage and plan residential educational visits
  • Build stronger relationships with PHE to better understand the science and explore a greater range of safe working practices and procedures to support the opening of the sector
  • Work to address issues around insurance for school educational visits
  • Identify and enable providers to access the necessary financial support to enable them to re-open for Easter 2021

For further details of the work of this group please contact: info@ukoutdoors.org.uk

UK Outdoors: c/o IOL Office (01228 564580)

Or, your appropriate member organisation above.

The following letter, published in The Telegraph online, is the result of the CEO of Tall Ships Youth Trust, Richard Leaman, approaching William Hague and asking for his support.

Could you consider influential people you know who might feel passionately about the loss of outdoor learning benefits and ask them to speak out?

UK Outdoors will shortly be publishing a proforma letter for individuals and organisations to send to sponsors, patrons, trustees, supporters etc. to make things easier to approach potential influential champions.

Telegraph Online
Depriving young people of the great outdoors is an utter tragedy
William Hague
19 October 2020 21:30

Rules restricting the work of outdoor education charities are only adding to the great cost of lockdown Living as I do in the rolling hills of mid Wales, I have something to look forward to when I finish writing this column. I will stretch my legs in the woods behind my house, look out for animals preparing for winter, breathe in some wonderfully fresh air, and, from the top of the nearest hill, gaze across to distant Snowdonia. Like other people fortunate enough to live in the countryside during the pandemic, I find the daily enjoyment of it to be inspiring, reassuring, and an essential part of keeping life in perspective.

The benefits to the human brain of the outdoors and nature have always been apparent, but are now recognised by science. A recent study supported by the University of Exeter Medical School found “strong and consistent benefits for mental health and well-being … from exposure to natural environments”. It found that socio-economic inequality in mental well-being “has been shown to be narrower among those who report good access to green or recreational areas”.

So persuasive has this and other evidence become that the Government has announced a pilot project on “green social prescribing” to work out how to use nature to tackle mental ill health. Funding is also being provided for other work on helping people after the pandemic which includes “healthy cooking, wildlife gardening, beekeeping” and many other outdoor activities.

This is all modestly encouraging, and we might dare to hope that it is the beginning of a realisation that we need to bring thriving nature back into towns and cities and allow our countryside to recover from the devastation of misguided agricultural policies. But in the meantime, a reasonable person might imagine that we could at least try to combat the massive risks of rising mental health problems and educational inequality in lockdowns by getting more young people out into that great outdoors.

The horrifying fact, however, is that we have been doing the exact opposite – closing down the entire sector of outdoor education and experiences that each year delivers immense benefits for tens of thousands of young people. According to the trade body UK Outdoors, since March children and young people have missed out on one and a half million educational visits. They say that if this continues, the sector stands to lose half its capacity permanently, with 6,000 jobs already lost. While hotels, boarding schools and hostels have been able to open during the summer, outdoor education centres have been forced to remain closed.

It will be an utter tragedy if we emerge from the pandemic with a new consciousness of the need for such experiences, only to find we have lost a large part of the provision for them. The way to avert that is not to give even more bailouts, but to get this particular sector up and running as soon as possible, with some sensible precautions, for the work that it does is desperately needed.

Take as an example the Tall Ships Youth Trust, an excellent charity that takes vulnerable and disadvantaged young people on week-long sailing trips. There is a good deal of evidence that this charity’s work has major positive effects on the youngsters involved, sometimes to a life-changing extent. The vast majority say afterwards that they are better at team working, communication, and managing their feelings, and that their confidence and self-esteem is improved. One study of the Tall Ships’ work with 80 unemployed young people saw 98 per cent of them go on into employment, education and training. Personal testimonies include 16-year-olds from violent and drug-addicted families whose lives and prospects have been turned around. Yet now, just when people need such help more than ever, every boat of the Tall Ships is tied up in Portsmouth Harbour. The teenagers who ought to be learning to sail, pulling on the ropes, experiencing the power of teamwork and feeling the exhilaration of being on the sea, are stuck instead in lonely or damaging situations.

This particular organisation has made every effort to ensure that safe bubbles of young people and staff could be created, and is prepared to invest in the new, more rapid tests that are steadily becoming available. But the current guidance is that only day trips can be undertaken to outdoor centres, which immediately makes the vast majority unviable or of little benefit.

Tall Ships are one example, but it is a story replicated across many other successful charities. The Children’s Trust offer short breaks for children with brain injuries and neurodisabilities; Free to be Kids take young people struggling with social and emotional difficulties on adventures in the countryside; the Honeypot Children’s Charity gives respite breaks for young carers in the New Forest – these are just some of a wide range of outstanding organisations whose residential courses have now been shut down for many months.

Do we actually need to stop young people who are at little risk of serious illness from being out together in the mountains and on the sea? And even if we accept there is some risk to the adults who supervise them, can’t we trust them to minimise that risk while maintaining their remarkable work?

Of course, with the current resurgence of Covid, and the intense debates about local lockdowns and circuit-breakers, opening up this vital sector will not be on the minds of political leaders. But the day will come soon when there is sufficient confidence in new, quicker tests to allow for people to be told about things they can do rather than always hearing of what they can’t. In the coming weeks, outdoor education and training should be ranked as a necessary part of keeping schooling going, and be allowed to open up as much as the change of season permits.

Whatever restrictions are necessary this autumn, we should remember at all times the mounting human cost of lockdowns and try to alleviate them wherever possible. We should prioritise the most vulnerable young people in the country, who are already more badly affected than their peers. Unless we do, there will be no “levelling up” – only higher mental illness rates, increased youth offending and more crime. It is time, very soon, to say that the balance of risk favours allowing some outstanding charities and businesses to do what our society desperately needs them to do.

UK Outdoors Logo


Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
1 Horse Guards Road

13th October 2020

Dear Chancellor,

Outdoor Education – Access to enhanced Job Support Scheme

UK Outdoors has repeatedly made clear to Government the damaging impact of its current guidance against residential educational visits on our sector, including at-risk sites within your constituency of Richmond. The guidance has left the outdoor education sector open but with only <1% of historic trading levels, in essence a ‘zombie sector’. Though not able to trade meaningfully, as a result of Government guidance, we will also not be eligible for the enhanced Job Support Scheme (“eJSS”). We urge you to provide our sector a valuable lifeline, by simply extending access to the eJSS, to protect jobs, businesses and livelihoods across the UK.

The Job Retention Scheme has kept our educationally vital sector alive but we have still suffered significant job losses as our revenues have been crippled. Providers up and down the country, regardless of size, are under threat. Over 3,000 have lost their jobs with 3,000 more expected before the new year. As we remain open with severely limited revenue, the Job Support Scheme is unworkable and unaffordable for the majority of the sector, with providers even being unable to cover or justify the lower cost of employees with little to no work for them to undertake.

Access to the eJSS would help the sector maintain jobs and build towards a meaningful opening next year, especially as the Government have committed to reviewing the guidance in November. The expanded Job Support Scheme already includes provision that extends access beyond premises that are legally closed, such as restaurants operating takeaway or delivery services. Our sector is in similar position to those exceptions with far more severely impacted revenue as a result of Government restrictions. Extending access to the eJSS for the outdoor education sector would ensure such a vital sector survives this pandemic and can significantly contribute to the social and economic recovery of this country and its schoolchildren.

We understand that every job and every business cannot be saved. However, our sector’s businesses are viable economic, social, educational and community contributors that could operate safely and with confidence – like similar parts of the education sector, such as boarding schools - without the Government’s punitive and unnecessary restrictions.

We have always focussed on self-help. We know that if the Government amended its guidance to schools over educational visits we could self-start and ensure that business and jobs remained intact. While the Government guidance remains in place, the sector cannot support itself. We need the effective support of the eJSS while we are restricted.

If nothing is done, the country stands to lose a vital £700m education industry with over 15,000 jobs. A whole sector of education is at risk as a result of Government guidance.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and your team to discuss access to the eJSS or welcome you to a centre in your constituency to see the issues and challenges we are facing first hand.

Yours sincerely,


Signatories - Rishi Sunak Letter 13-10-2020

To listen to the UK Outdoors Andy Robinson Interview from Times Radio. Listen from 2:38 minutes.

“You can go to boarding school. You can stay in a hostel dorm. But kids can’t go on their outdoor education visits.”

15,000 jobs at risk and half of outdoor education capacity to be permanently lost as Government continues school travel sector closure

6th October 2020 - Today, UK Outdoors, the industry body for outdoor learning and activities representing 5000 individuals and organisations, is warning that the Government’s continued advice preventing overnight educational visits threatens the future of a proud British industry and cultural asset. Despite boarding schools, hotels and hostels all operating on similar guidelines, the school travel sector has been closed by Government since March.

If no action is taken and no support is provided this academic year the sector stands to lose all its 15000 jobs and nearly half its capacity permanently, decimating a vital British industry. The inaction over guidance on travel and overnight visits for educational settings has already cost businesses, from small independent trip providers and local authority centres to larger organisations, an estimated £500m in lost revenue and over 6000 job losses. Since March, children and young people have missed out on over 1.5m educational visits.

Outdoor education is part of British culture with over 2m children a year taking part. It is a vital resource for all schools to allow children to develop their social and teamworking skills in a friendly and safe environment. More so for the thousands of inner city schools, students and parents for whom outdoor education is a lifeline.

With Spring term fast approaching, the sector desperately needs certainty and guidance in place for a phased reopening to protect jobs, businesses and vital community assets that could be lost forever. The sector is calling on the Government to review the guidance in November, in line with recognised science and health and safety protocols, and lay out a roadmap for the reopening of the school travel sector.

Andy Robinson, Chief Executive of Institute for Outdoor Learning (“IOL”) and Member of UK Outdoors, said: “Outdoor education and adventure is engrained in our DNA. It is part of British education. Every child’s first trip away from home is such an important and formative experience. We cannot just let the industry fall by the way side through negligence and ignorance. The Government to act to protect the industry and ensure its reopening in time for the Spring term or face an economic, social and cultural disaster.”

Health and safety is a priority for the school travel sector. It has continuously reassured Government that it is safe to operate, meeting and exceeding all relevant Government guidelines. Collectively, the sector has developed robust COVID-safe guidelines for providers as well as a detailed COVID protocols handbook for Government and public health authorities. All providers have undertaken to, amongst other initiatives, reduce capacity to meet guidelines, maintain social bubbling – a key Government policy - and increase staffing.

Jim Whittaker, Chair of Association of Heads of Outdoors Centres (“AHOEC”) and UK Outdoors Member, said: “We have put our heart and soul into meeting every challenge the Government has set. It is a bitter pill to swallow keeping our sites closed while we see hotels, boarding schools and hostels delivering the same overnight experiences unabated. The sector is ready and safe to reopen. We have seen nothing, no science, that contradicts that position. We hope the Government will listen, understand the lengths our sector has gone to in ensuring safety and compliance, and restart the sector.”

UK Outdoors represents over 5000 organisations and individuals providing formative educational experiences for schools and students both domestically and overseas. The industry provides over £700m to the UK economy every year, supporting over 15,000 jobs around the UK.

Media Enquiries
UK Outdoors
Andy Robinson
Jim Whittaker
c/o Montfort Communications

Nick Bastin
+44 (0) 7931 500 066

Woolf Thomson Jones
+44 (0) 7376 392 693

Notes to Editors

About UK Outdoors

UK Outdoors is the industry body for outdoor learning, representing over 5000 individuals and organisations in the outdoor & environmental education and adventure world. We deliver one voice and the best support for individuals and organisations throughout the sector.

Outdoor learning changes lives and provides opportunities for all students, regardless of background. The sector holds a pivotal role in supporting schools to develop students’ social and mental health wellbeing through adventure and engagement with the natural environment.

The outdoor learning sector delivers formative educational experiences to at least 5m students across the UK every year. The sector provides over 15,000 jobs and £700m to the UK economy.

The Prime Minister

Monday 5th October

Dear Prime Minister,

The school travel sector is facing an existential threat. UK Outdoors represents the thousands of organisations and individuals that deliver outdoor educational experiences, from the small independents and local authority providers to the larger international organisations. Our members are warning that while the Government continues to advise against overnight educational visits the future of outdoor education - a great British tradition - is at risk.

Despite the sector’s continued efforts to prove its safety and preparedness, while boarding schools, hotels and hostels continue to operate, your Government has blocked residential and overnight school trips. The sector needs a roadmap to return and support to ensure it can provide its valuable educational services in the future.

Nearly 3000 jobs have already been lost and many outdoor education facilities have permanently closed as over £500m of revenue has been lost. The recent decision not to review the guidance will cost a further 3,000 jobs before the new year. If there is no change before the Spring term half of outdoor education capacity will be lost permanently alongside over 10,000 jobs. We cannot warn the Government in strong enough terms that any decision to prevent residential trips for the rest of the academic year, without support, will permanently close the whole sector.

The sector accounts for over £700m contribution to the economy and 15,000 jobs in rural areas. We cannot and must not risk permanent damage to a vital and formative educational and cultural asset. Educational visits are a British institution and we cannot let them die.

We would welcome your intervention to set out a roadmap for a phased return of school trips by the Spring term, allowing children, schools and parents across the UK access to valuable outdoor education. To date, despite tireless work from the sector, we have received disappointing engagement with the Department for Education, resulting in no change to guidance. The commitment to a November review of on COVID-safe health and safety he guidance is vital to the future of our sector and provides the Government with the opportunity to act.

With the burden of the sector’s continued existence hinging on that review we are keen that the right processes and frameworks - including proper constructive consultation between the sector, relevant departments and the appropriate public health body - are in place. We believe that the sector, as an industry with a long record of educational contribution and high health and safety standards, deserves an effective, transparent process for its reopening.

Health and safety is a priority for the school travel sector. It has continuously reassured Government that it is safe to operate, meeting and exceeding all relevant Government guidelines. Collectively, the sector has developed robust COVID-safe guidelines for providers as well as a detailed COVID protocols handbook for Government and public health authorities. All providers have undertaken to, amongst other initiatives, reduce capacity to meet guidelines, increase staffing and maintain school bubbling, a vital part of the Government’s guidance for reopening schools.

Our sector has been shut since March, quite unlike any other. The existing guidance has strangled all economic flows through our providers and starved the sector of prospects. Without a reopening or even a roadmap by November, the sector would require considerable support on jobs and revenue to survive. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss support for the sector, in the context of lost revenue to date and in the future as a result of Government guidance, alongside the roadmap to reopening.

It is clear to us that further delays would ruin our sector permanently. For children, parents and schools across the country, and in the future, we implore you to look in detail at our sector’s plight and help find a way forward that secures jobs, business and important educational and cultural assets.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and your policy team to discuss the November review and the roadmap for reopening the sector. We have provided copies of this letter to the Department for Education, Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Her Majesty’s Treasury for their interest.

Yours Sincerely

PM Letter Signatories 05-10-2020


To listen to the UK Outdoors Andy Robinson Interview from R4’s Farming Today explaining impact of ban on residential school visits. Outdoor Education Residentials starts at 5.00 minutes.



For information on UK Outdoors organisations click the logos below


Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres
Institute for Outdoor Learning
Outdoor Council
British Activity Providers Association