News 2016

Title:  Mountaineering Ireland voices concern over proposed closure of Outdoor Centres in Northern Ireland
Date:  20/12/2016

Proposal to close Outdoor Education Centres in Northern Ireland: Update

NI Sports Forum alongside Mountaineering Ireland, Canoe Association NI, Royal Yachting Association NI (RYA NI), NI Orienteering and other union representatives met with the Education Committee of the NI Assembly on Wednesday December 14th to discuss proposals to close Outdoor Education Centres in Delamont, Bushmills, Killowen and Ardnabannon following a report by the Education Authority.

The Education Committee heard from representatives from Mountaineering Ireland, Canoe Association NI, RYA NI and NI Orienteering on how the proposed closures would have a detrimental impact on the access to outdoor activity for our schools and local youth groups. Alongside National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) and Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) union representatives, a strong case for retaining the centres was provided with a recognition of a new strategic approach to outdoor activity provision in Northern Ireland. The Education Committee, which is chaired by Barry McElduff MLA, outlined the importance in engaging with the Education Authority who will make the final call on the proposals following the consultation process. There was a consensus amongst our members and stakeholders that the consultation process to this point has been less than adequate.

Mountaineering Ireland CEO Murrough McDonagh stated; “Currently we are supporting the work of NI Sport Forum; to hopefully bring about change in the process of consultation up to February 6th 2017 and to have a more inclusive and robust system in place for collecting and analysing data. The proposed closures of four Outdoor Education Centres are not in the best interest of Mountaineering Ireland’s members, volunteers and most importantly young participants. On Wednesday we stated, in no uncertain terms, our concerns to the Executive Committee of the Education Authority on the proposed closures,  and a wish to be engaged in this consultation process moving forward and to offer successful alternatives.

In conjunction with our members who spoke passionately about the benefits of outdoor education, the Northern Ireland Sports Forum (NISF), NIPSA and the NASUWT were very open about their willingness to work with the Education Authority to ensure that the experience and knowledge of those involved in service provision could lead to a new strategic direction and approach to outdoor education, which would ensure financial sustainability and continued development of the experiences provided to those who use the centres.

Before the consultation closes on February 6th 2017, NISF will seek to engage directly with the Education Authority and would encourage all schools, parents, members and stakeholders to provide written consultation responses. Further information can be found here with a link to the EA website and their report and questionnaire survey.

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