A PETITION to save an outdoor learning centre used by generations of Warwickshire youngsters has received thousands of signatures.
Warwickshire County Council recently finished a consultation into Marle Hall in Llandudno, which has been owned by the authority since 1971 and used by young people across the county for educational, adventure courses.
The outcome is not yet known, but some 7,000 people have recently signed a petition calling for the centre to remain open.
It is believed more than 60,000 people have used the 100-bed centre in north Wales since it opened.
Comments on the petition by former pupils include: “I went to Marle Hall twice as a pupil at Henley-in-Arden High School. The first helped build so much confidence as a 12-year-old, the second provided a rich source of study material for my GCSE biology and geography coursework, as well as creating many happy memories and adventures I have never forgotten, with people have remained friends for life’’.
Another wrote: ‘’I went here three times for educational purposes. It was a massive part of growing up and the only trip my parents could afford. Even my disabled brother went, again it was his only trip.’’
And another signatory said: “My children have really benefitted from all aspects of their week at Marle Hall while in Year 6 at Milverton School. It has always been seen as a rite of passage and a big step in children’s development as they prepare to go to senior school.
“Not every child has other access to the activities they do there. I spoke to adults who went to Marle Hall more than 20 years ago and still talk about it. Please don’t sell this key part of a child’s development.”
The centre, along with all other outdoor learning centres across the UK, have been temporarily closed since March due to covid restrictions.
But a group of former Marle Hall headteachers and Neil Wilson, Warwickshire County Council’s former lead officer for outdoor education, say the council should not close the centre for good.
In a letter to the authority they say: “We are very disappointed to find Warwickshire County Council is proposing the closure of the centre as it enters its 50th year of providing an excellent and bespoke service to Warwickshire residents, schools, staff and children and young people.
“It is a unique facility and the last remnant of an outdoor education service which the authority provided to those living or educated within the county.
“The centre has gone through significant repair and development over the last eight years. Therefore, moving forward expenditure on the building and site should be little to no cost to the council.
We implore the council, its councillors and officers to find a way forward for the centre’s continuance, for it to be able to deliver high quality, cost effective experiences for the schools, staff, residents, children and young people of the county.
“Should the centre close such a facility would be lost to Warwickshire residents, schools, children and young people forever.”
A County Council spokesperson said: “We have finished the period of consultation with staff and all of the feedback from them is in the process of being thoroughly analysed. Only once that has been done, and its implications considered, will a final decision be made. We are not, therefore, in a position to comment any further.
“However, we can allay concerns that have been circulating on social media that Warwickshire’s schoolchildren will no longer have access to outdoor education. Our refreshed Outdoor Education Strategy will draw on a range of activities that will enhance learning and personal development.
“We have heard how much value pupils put on residential breaks. Whatever is ultimately decided around Marle Hall will not mean that the offer of a residential break is withdrawn, it remains a key component of any outdoor education strategy for Warwickshire’s schoolchildren.”