The Department of Education continues to ban school groups from visiting camps or using outdoor activity providers, despite regional students returning to face-to-face learning in just over three weeks, and the strong evidence showing kids are safer learning outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Outdoors Victoria team continues to work tirelessly urging the Victorian Government to permit regional school students to return to camps in Term 4 at the same time as resuming school on campus. We urge for the same sensible alignment to occur for Melbourne students in the following weeks, as the sector faces financial ruin despite being ready to accommodate students following CovidSafe Plans.
A continued ban on camp operators and outdoor activity providers taking school groups, and a lack of certainty over when they can again run activities for schools, is threatening the survival of this vital industry which employs 7,200 professionals and is worth $374 million annually, with $150 million flowing into to the regional communities.
Currently, across regional Victoria, kids can go and stay in camp accommodation and use outdoor activity providers to have adventures with their families. It makes no sense now that those same children, at the same location, could not attend within a school group. After months of restrictions, there’s no more important time for kids to safely get back into the outdoors, reconnect with their fellow students and teachers, and learn in nature.
In June, Premier Daniel Andrews announced that when students returned to on site learning, schools could also go on camps and outdoor activities. But more recent advice from the Department of Education indicates schools must continue to wait for further advice. In Queensland, over recent weeks more than 20,000 students and 1,500 teachers have attended 300 camps without a single case of COVID-19.
The health and wellbeing of Victorian school students has been severely impacted by COVID-19 restrictions and remote learning. For hundreds of thousands of school students and their families, if Deputy Premier Merlino, who is also Minister for Education, or Premier Andrews were to announce that students can go on camp and enjoy outdoor education and adventure activities, this likely would be the first thing they would have to celebrate all year with their school friends, parents and teachers. What a gift!
Getting back to school and having the opportunity to go on camp will ensure the health and wellbeing of our kids and will support the Andrews government’s efforts to reset and re-engage them in a more regular school life.This treasured outdoors sector needs certainty now, in order to plan and prepare for student visits – otherwise it won’t survive to help facilitate the education of hundreds of thousands of Victorian school children each year for decades to come.
If you aren’t yet convinced of the importance of promptly getting our kids back on camps and outdoor adventure activities, read on to learn what our esteemed friends in Canada are doing in greater numbers for their school children during COVID-19: Outdoor learning gains traction as schools get ready to open amid COVID-19
Andrew Knight, OV CEO