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Welsh education charity responds to progress on Residential Outdoor Education Bill

A Welsh politician’s bid to guarantee residential outdoor learning experiences for school pupils has won the backing of the UK’s leading environmental education charity.

The Field Studies Council has thrown its weight behind a private member’s bill brought by Sam Rowlands MS, which seeks to ensure that all pupils in Wales get a week-long residential outdoor learning experience at least once in their school career.

The bill is due to be presented next Wednesday (Nov 29) in the Welsh Parliament before further scrutiny and another debate in the spring.

To win support for the bill, the Field Studies Council, has been inviting politicians from across Wales to visit its outdoor centres to learn about the importance of outdoor education.

Among those to have taken up the opportunity is Aberconwy MS Janet Finch-Saunders, who visited Rhyd-y-Creuau in Betws-y-coed earlier this month.

The politician was given a tour of the Field Studies Council building, which sits within the Eryri/Snowdonia National Park, and staff spoke to her about the courses and activities on offer for schools.

Centre manager Shell Waters said: “Fortunately the weather was on our side which meant we were able to get outside and explore the amazing outside space which we have on site here.

“We’re located in a spectacular spot and our position within the national park means there are so many different landscapes for students to explore, including Eryri’s glaciated valleys and the rocky shores of the North Wales coast a short drive away.

“It was fantastic to welcome MS Janet Finch-Saunders and talk to her about the importance of outdoor education to young people – how it boosts their academic performance, improves “soft skills” like leadership, teamwork and resilience, and helps to regulate mental health.

“The skills learned through outdoor education also open the door to a huge range of environmental careers, which many young people might never know about without the chance to experience a residential field trip.

“We wholeheartedly support Sam’s bid to embed outdoor learning into the curriculum in Wales and we hope other politicians across Wales will put politics aside and support the bill so that it becomes law.”

Speaking about the visit Mrs Finch-Saunders said: “From adventure days to a four-day field work course on A level environmental science, there is an extensive range of nature-inspired courses for children and young people at Rhyd-y-Creuau.

“In a time of both a nature and climate crisis, it is more important than ever that our young people have the opportunity to learn as much as they can about the environment.

“Whilst the team at Rhyd-y-Creuau are doing amazing work, the Welsh Parliament could go a step further by empowering all young people in Wales to have a week-long residential outdoor learning experience at least once in their school career. The difference that could make to their lives, awareness of the outdoors, and mental health is significant.

“I will certainly be voting in favour of the Bill!”

In September Paul Davies, MS for Preseli Pembrokeshire, visited the charity’s outdoor education centre at Dale Fort on a similar fact-finding mission in relation to outdoor learning.

The proposed bill will be presented by Mr Rowlands in the Welsh Parliament on Wednesday, November 29. There will then be a period of scrutiny by the Children, Young People & Education Committee before a further debate next spring which will decide whether or not the legislation should progress.

If favoured, the bill will extend the opportunity to experience a week-long, residential outdoor education visit to children the length and breadth of Wales.

The Field Studies Council operates outdoor education centres across the UK, including three in Wales. The charity welcomed more than 150,000 people to its centres last year and offers meaningful outdoor courses in a wide range of subjects from conservation to history and marine biology.

For more information about Mr Rowlands’ bill, including how people in Wales can support it, visit his website. To find out more about the Field Studies Council and what it can offer to schools and individuals, visit www.field-studies-council.org/

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