The Scottish Government is to provide £2 million to tackle the financial challenges facing the residential outdoor education sector as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The package will include funding to help centres provide “safe, impactful outdoor learning experiences to support young people’s education and wellbeing”.
Science Minister Richard Lochhead has written to MSPs to outline the package of support.
He said: “I met representatives from the sector recently to discuss their concerns and request for funding. I am acutely aware of the challenges the sector has had to face in the wake of the restrictions imposed to supress the spread of Covid-19.
“Outdoor learning is an important aspect of Scotland’s curriculum. It can play a vital role in supporting children’s wellbeing and attainment and we are fully committed to supporting outdoor education providers. I hope this funding, along with third sector and youth work funding streams which are already available, alleviates some of the pressures facing the sector during these challenging times and allows them to offer meaningful experiences to young people.
“Funding on its own will not address all of the challenges that are faced at the current time. We will continue to engage with local authorities to support the important role that outdoor education centres and their staff can play during the period when overnight residential stays are not permitted for public health reasons.”
Discussions on administration of the package of support continue. Details of how to apply will be made available as soon as possible.
Alongside the new fund, the Scottish Government said it will produce a package of communication and support materials to local authorities and schools in order to publicise the opportunities for outdoor learning experiences in their area.
The announcement followed a nationwide campaign that warned time is running out to save outdoor education centres with the furlough scheme about to end. More than 35 organisations have backed the campaign and 23,000 people have signed a support petition.
Campaigners said that without emergency funding many centres could close by next year – and some by Christmas – with the loss of around 300 jobs.
Last week a cross-party group of MSPs called for £3 million emergency funding to keep centres open for the next six months.
A spokeswoman for the Save Your Outdoor Centres Campaign said: “It is positive and encouraging that the Scottish Government have announced this specific emergency funding for outdoor education centres today, this should help the centres to survive the challenging few months ahead.
“This highlights that the Scottish Government understand the value of outdoor residential experiences and the impact that they have on young people in Scotland.
“It is not the £3 million that we had asked for and that we need, but we will continue to work with the Scottish Government to ensure that the money reaches the centres who need it most and as quickly as possible.
“We are still waiting to see the details of the fund, but we hope that it will ensure that providers can cover essential fixed costs, whilst also working with schools to deliver meaningful outdoor education that meets the social and emotional needs of young people.”