End the postcode lottery of residential outdoor education - Martin Davidson

There can be no greater aspect of social justice than to ensure that all children and young people have the opportunity to reach their potential regardless of the social and economic background they are born into. There should be no greater priority for Government than to ensure that the inequity of educational outcomes is addressed.
Martin Davidson, Director of Scotland and Innovation at The Outward Bound Trust.Martin Davidson, Director of Scotland and Innovation at The Outward Bound Trust.
Martin Davidson, Director of Scotland and Innovation at The Outward Bound Trust.

It was heartening to hear Shirley-Anne Sommerville MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, announce that the Scottish Government is recommitting to closing the attainment gap.

It was also encouraging to hear of the recognition of the contribution of services beyond school in achieving the ambition. For too long, too many have seen the solution to educational inequality as the preserve of schools. This will not work. As Einstein said the definition of insanity “is to keep doing the same thing over and over and to expect different results”.

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Before young people can learn they need to believe in themselves, they need to have the confidence and skills to learn, they need to feel valued and respected, and they need to develop the resilience to bounce back from setbacks. Residential outdoor education provides a powerful environment and approach to helping young people develop the confidence and capacities to be a successful learner, a confident individual, a responsible citizen and an effective contributor, the true purpose of education in Scotland.

So why is access to outdoor residentials a postcode lottery? If you happen to go to a school that organises residentials, and if you happen to come from a background which means you can afford the ‘trip’, then you have the opportunity to gain from the undeniable benefits. But if you do not you are denied the benefits.

All political parties included a pledge to greater equity of opportunity to residential outdoor education in their 2021 Scottish Parliament election manifestos. Indeed, in the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government it states, “Across this Parliament, we will ensure every primary and secondary pupil can go on curriculum related trips and residentials.” Liz Smith MSP is pursuing a members bill that would make it an entitlement for every young person to do an outdoor residential during their school career.

Will 2022 be the year progress is made with ensuring equity to residential outdoor education for Scotland’s young people? Given the damaging legacy of the pandemic on young peoples’ mental health and wellbeing, the disruption to their education and the growing attainment gap, and the impact on their social and emotional development there is no time to waste. There has never been a more urgent need to get young people outside, having adventures, and developing the skills required to survive and thrive in life.

I therefore challenge the Government, challenge Ministers, challenge all members of the Scottish Parliament to work together to address the lack of equity that currently exists. I urge Shirley-Anne Sommerville MSP to provide leadership and to ensure that all young people can speak of the impact of their outdoor residential as Justin, aged 15 does: "I learnt to challenge myself and push myself on with more things, like the jetty jump or the high challenges – I really struggled with that, but I was so proud of myself that I did it afterwards. That’s made me want to push myself at school with my grades and with other things - it’s made me want to achieve more things."

Martin Davidson, Director of Scotland and Innovation at The Outward Bound Trust.



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