Weir announces £1million fund for Residential Outdoor Education Centres.
The Education Minister has secured £1million funding to provide much needed support to Outdoor Education Centres.
These are centres that provide curricular relevant, residential outdoor learning opportunities for children and young people.
Slieve Croob Alliance Councillor Andrew McMurray who is a professional outdoor activities and youth worker, has welcomed the move. He said: “There hasn’t been an aspect of the Education Sector that hasn’t been affected by the current pandemic and associated restrictions.
“Outdoor Education Centres provide for young people to learn both formally and informally. School and Youth groups who would have designed in Outdoor Education as an integral part of their school year or youth centre programme have not been able to deliver these aspects this year.
“Coupled with the financial concerns which all these centres have, this commitment of finance will go some way to ensure that the centres will be in a position to provide programmes for young people throughout all sections of our society.
“We have seen the huge uptake in people getting outside during the pandemic. So Outdoor Education Centres are keenly aware of the role and desire to use their services when it becomes safe to do so.”
The outdoor settings offer vital educational opportunities for children and young people throughout Northern Ireland, but have had to significantly reduce their services as a direct result of the restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.
Peter Weir said: “At a time when the risk of the spread of the virus remains too great to consider the reopening of these centres, it is essential that support is provided now to enable these services to respond to the needs of our children and young people as restrictions are eased and as we emerge from this pandemic.
“The funding I have secured will enable these centres to continue to benefit current and future generations of learners and allow centre staff to support outdoor learning in schools and other formal education settings when appropriate.
“Our children and young people must be able to continue to experience the immersive, fun and educational opportunities that residential outdoor centres provide.
“This is particularly important at a time when they are likely to have had to spend considerable time indoors, which may have affected their physical and mental health and wellbeing.”
The COVID-19 Residential Outdoor Education Centre Relief Fund will be administered by the Education Authority’s (EA) Youth Service and will be open for applications from 22 January 2021.
Funding has been provided as part of the Executive’s COVID-19 Relief Fund.