Plea for overnight school trips to resume after coronavirus crisis

PUBLISHED: 09:17 28 July 2020 | UPDATED: 09:17 28 July 2020

The charity offers trips to Flatford Mill  Picture: SU ANDERSON

The charity offers trips to Flatford Mill Picture: SU ANDERSON

An environmental charity offering excursions at Flatford Mill is calling on the government to allow overnight school trips to take place from autumn.

Mark Castle, chief executive of the Field Studies Council  Picture: FIELD STUDIES COUNCILMark Castle, chief executive of the Field Studies Council Picture: FIELD STUDIES COUNCIL

The Field Studies Council, which runs a field centre at the mill, normally welcomes 150,000 school pupils to its centres nationwide every year – but lost £9.7million of business overnight after the coronavirus lockdown was announced in March.

Now, as lockdown measures have eased, the charity has learned it will be unable to welcome children to its centres for overnight stays in autumn, despite the government having announced school trips will again be allowed to take place.

On the same day the government announcement on school trips was made, the charity was dealt a further blow as the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) announced proposals to remove segments of fieldwork and practical science from 2021 summer exams.

In a letter to prime minister Boris Johnson, Mark Castle, the charity’s chief executive, called on the government to cut the “Gordian Knot”.

He said: “We have now reconfigured all our centres so that they are Covid-secure. However, our core business, which is delivering curriculum-based courses where GCSE and A-Level students come to us to develop their environmental and fieldwork skills, is dead in the water.

“Two threats to our business were announced on the same day and we would like you to look again at school guidance for the autumn term and Ofqual’s proposal to remove large parts of fieldwork and practical science from 2021 exams and assessments.

“Residential trips play a vital role in levelling up and catching up. My staff know how to enthuse and motivate students disengaged from school, by reconnecting them with the real world and engaging all their senses after weeks of lockdown and digital learning.”

Mr Castle added: “We have worked extremely hard to make all the changes needed to make our centres Covid-secure because the safely of our staff and visitors is our top priority.

“We have been round with the tape measure and reconfigured dormitories to take account of social distancing, we have carried out rigorous risk assessments at all centres and drawn up new protocols so we know we can open up and operate safely but at the moment we are not being given the chance to do so.”

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