Exciting proposals for outdoor education could take a major step forward next week as council leaders are asked to agree talks with two key parties.
Wiltshire College and Community First are the two preferred bidders out of seven that came forward to offer young people outdoor education opportunities.
At a Wiltshire Council cabinet meeting next Tuesday (11 December) councillors will be asked to agree to begin talks.
This means that Braeside and Oxenwood will remain open and continue to provide activities with Wiltshire Council underpinning the provision until January 2020 if required. Negotiations will work towards transition and keeping both sites open to ensure a smooth transition to the new providers.
Community First proposes to continue outdoor education at Oxenwood, with curriculum-based outdoor education services. The proposal integrates Community First’s established work with Wiltshire young people and youth groups. For example, providing free access to the service for 250 young people who are vulnerable and facing disadvantage.
Wiltshire College & University Centre proposes transferring the Braeside staff and service to the Wiltshire College site at Lackham. A new outdoor education facility with 120 beds would be created. The provision will have a comprehensive range of outdoor education facilities and opportunities that exploit the location next to the river Avon and agricultural college facilities.
The preferred bidders have been put forward after a thorough evaluation by officers, councillors and the Outdoor Education Scrutiny Task Group. The evaluation included placing a broad 50:50 balance on price offered and social value to benefit the young people of Wiltshire.
Philip Whitehead, cabinet member for finance, said: “We are recommending negotiations go ahead with these two parties as we believe they offer the most secure and exciting provision for all young people into the future.
“We are being true to our pledge to look at both the social value and the finances. There are some negotiations to go and we need to get this right for our young people. I am now confident that given the interest shown by the preferred suppliers we can take this forward and provide both an outstanding and sustainable outdoor education provision for Wiltshire which is recognised throughout the region.”
A decision for Wiltshire Council to cease its provision of Outdoor Education at the two sites was made in March and these latest developments mean that Outdoor Education can be sustained and potentially improved in the county at no cost to the council.