Residential Outdoor Education (Wales) Bill - RCPCH Wales responds

In January 2024 we responded to the Senedd Children, Young People and Education Committee's inquiry into the Residential Outdoor Education (Wales) Bill. Our response was prepared in collaboration with the Welsh Institute for Physical Activity, Health and Sport (WIPAHS). WIPAHS is a pan-Wales, multi-disciplinary institute that aims to create a healthier society through the transformative power of physical activity and sport. We outline our response here.

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The purpose of the Bill is to establish a statutory duty on local authorities to ensure that all young people receiving maintained education are provided with the opportunity to experience residential Outdoor Education, for at least one week, at some time during their school years. The Bill will also establish a statutory obligation for providers of maintained education to be allocated funding to enable them to do this.

Our response

RCPCH Wales supports the aspiration of the Residential Outdoor Education (Wales) Bill as it aims to improve the health of children and young people and to give ‘every child and young person in maintained schools an opportunity to participate, free of charge’. 

However, data specifically relating to residential outdoor education is currently limited as often the impact is studied alongside other factors which makes it difficult to assess the specific impact. If the Bill were to be successful, effective monitoring of the implementation and impact would be needed to ensure it is beneficial to the health and wellbeing of children and young people and cost effective.

RCPCH Wales is aware of the current financial challenges facing the Welsh Government. If the Welsh Government believes the Bill is too expensive to deliver, RCPCH Wales would welcome the aspirations of the Bill to be incorporated into the new curriculum. The Welsh Government should seek to expand opportunities and choices available for children to engage with various outdoor educational activities, be it residential or local, with an emphasis on the importance of physical activity. 

Our conclusion

  • The Bill could have an impact on promoting healthy lifestyle choices, setting the foundations for improved physical and mental health and reducing health inequalities. 
  • Children in less affluent families often experience health inequalities with obesity, smoking and vaping being higher and physical activity and school attainment being lower compared to their more affluent counterparts.
  • Children from the poorest 20% of households are also four times as likely to have serious mental health difficulties by the age of 11 compared to those from the wealthiest 20%. 
  • The Bill aims to give ‘every child and young person in maintained schools an opportunity to participate, free of charge’. This could have an impact on reducing health inequalities and ensuring every child can be included in residential outdoor education and new learning experiences.
  • There is some evidence that outdoor education is supportive to children and young people’s development in terms of opportunity to participate in a range of physical activity as well as potential broader benefits to their mental health and improved self-esteem and self-confidence.   
  • The direct impact of ‘residential’ outdoor education on a child’s development has not yet been fully established. This is due to the fact the impact is often measured alongside other variables, including length of stay, age of child, residential/non-residential, activity through a society or club and type of learning objectives.
  • While the direct impact of residential outdoor education by itself is difficult to measure, WIPAHS could be uniquely placed to facilitate an evaluation of a pilot scheme or to monitor the impact of the Bill if it were passed.

You can downloads our full response at the bottom of this page.