'Amazing' school trip could become compulsory for every child in Wales but not everyone agrees

  • Video report by Issa Farfour

There are calls for all school children in Wales to receive a week of residential outdoor education, funded by the Welsh Government.

Senedd members will vote next month on a bill which would see each child take part in a compulsory week away from home. Supporters of the bill claim it will give young people a valuable first taste of independence and improve their wellbeing.

Andy Meek, who runs the Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre near Pen y Fan, told ITV Wales’ Sharp End programme: “I’m supporting this bill because I think it’s crucial to our young people’s education.

"I’ve been involved in this world for 40 years and I know the value of it to the young people that come and visit.”

Storey Arms is located in the heart of the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park and offers visitors the chance to take part in activities like hiking, canoeing, caving and gorge walking.

It is one of a number of centres across the country which offer young people this kind of experience.

Andy Meek, who runs the Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre, said he supports this bill because it’s crucial to young people's education. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Mr Meek added: “Many schools come but it’s only accessible to the ones who can afford to pay and come to a centre like this. It would be so good if we knew we could open access to everybody to come and that would just help the people who don’t have the chance to experience such an amazing time away from home.”

The bill has been put forward by Conservative MS Sam Rowlands, who said: "There are some longer-term benefits to these types of experiences which I think government should seriously consider because what we need to ensure is that children have an active lifestyle which can help them in the long run in terms of their physical health, and we know the mental health challenges our young people are facing at the moment.”

Storey Arms is in the heart of the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park and offers visitors the chance to take part in outdoor activities. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

If passed, this bill would cost an estimated £20million each year to implement, something which opponents of the bill fear could have an adverse impact on the education sector.

Laura Doel, national secretary for the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) Cymru, said: "The problem we have with the bill is that it seeks to take money from local authorities which are already cash-strapped and put that money in outdoor education.

"When you’ve got schools fundraising for the basics, when you’ve got schools making redundancies of teachers and teaching assistants, we cannot afford to take away any of that frontline funding from the delivery of core education."

She added that while she supports the spirit of the bill and appreciates the value of outdoor education, she does not believe it is workable in the current climate.

The Welsh Government shares NAHT Cymru’s concerns, having indicated that while it supports residential outdoor education it will not back this bill due to its cost implications.

But supporters still believe the benefits of outdoor education represent good value for money and insist this kind of experience should be a right rather than a privilege.

You can view Tuesday’s Sharp End here.

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