Pressure is mounting as North Yorkshire County Council prepares to decide on the future of Bewerley Park Outdoor Education Centre today.
More than 16,000 people have signed a petition opposing the closure of Bewerley Park and East Barnby, near Whitby, after it was revealed that the council is considering whether the two facilities are viable.
The impact of the coronavirus crisis could see both of them mothballed in the short term. A full review of the sites is also being planned to decide whether to keep them open.
Bewerley Park has been welcoming generations of local schoolchildren for many decades, giving them the opportunity to try outdoor activities and learn new skills. Its potential closure has caused significant concern among parents and former pupils who have benefited from the NYCC-owned residential site.
Among the comments from signatories were:
“Both centres are incredibly important for the service they provide to young people for experience of adventurous activity and insight into the environment that sustains us all. They are part of their local and much, much wider community, their impacts resonate for generations and their loss can be ill-afforded.”
One former teacher wrote:
“I have lived in Bewerley for 40 years and I have taught at Harrogate Grammar School. I know what a fantastic resource Bewerley Park represents for both teachers and students. Where else on the curriculum can children undertake these safe activities with experiences and development of skills that can last a lifetime?”
NYCC’s executive is due to meet today to decide whether to proceed with mothballing Bewerley Park and East Barnby, as well as undertaking a review of the long-term future of the service.
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A report from Amanda Newbold, assistant director of children and young people’s services, recommends going ahead with both, and assessing the impact on the 42 staff affected. Some could be redeployed to other services, depending on need, but it is likely some posts would be lost.
Her report said the facilities at Bewerley Park are in need of significant investment to bring them up to modern standards.
The council has vowed to carry out a consultation with schools and local communities about how outdoor learning should be delivered in the future. Ms Newbold said:
“We know that many generations in North Yorkshire have fond memories of visiting Bewerley Park and East Barnby during their schools years. Many thousands of students has passed through the doors of these centres over the last few decades to take part in outdoor adventures and it has a special place in many people’s hearts.
“Unfortunately the estate, including dormitory huts, dining hall and other buildings are in urgent need of updating and modernising and we need to create a more suitable model of outdoor education provision for future generations of children.
“If the buildings at Bewerley Park were old stone structures there wouldn’t be a problem, but the material estate has worn out and we’re spending a significant sum of money trying to patch it up. Unfortunately the buildings aren’t fit for purpose or for the future.
“We need to launch a full review of outdoor learning services and potentially come up with a more sustainable model of delivering the service.
“At this stage nothing is off the table and we would like to work with our existing outdoor learning staff and other stakeholders to see if we to make sure we fully meet the future needs of schools and young people for outdoor education and have a sustainable, long-lasting model for the service in place.”