On 8 July, Warwickshire County Council’s Cabinet took the decision that Marle Hall, the County Council’s residential facility for outdoor education activities, will close on a permanent basis on Friday 22 October 2021.
This is not a decision that the Council has taken lightly. As evidenced by the petition of over 7,000 signatures that was presented to us earlier this year, we know that Marle Hall has been a much-loved and valued facility over the last 50 years, and it has delivered a range of activities that have enhanced social skills and personal development of many residents in Warwickshire and beyond.
However, Marle Hall exists within an open and competitive market, with schools able to choose from around 50 other providers within a similar radius. Over the last 7 years it has been consistently under-utilised and the cost of running the service has not been met by the income it has generated. If it continued to operate, it would need significant investment and as a result, the costs to the Council, both revenue losses and capital maintenance, would be likely to reach more than £850,000 over the next 10 years.
Outdoor residential trips remain a key part of Warwickshire County Council’s commitment to outdoor education and our schools will continue to have a choice of a wide range of residential outdoor education providers.
Cllr Jeff Morgan, portfolio holder for Children, Families and Education, said “We know that many people will be saddened to hear this news, perhaps because they have fond memories of their own experiences at Marle Hall or believe strongly in the role of outdoor education for children. I want to reassure them that we do too, and this decision does not change our commitment to outdoor education at all.
“However, we have a responsibility to make sure we are spending public money wisely and so sometimes have difficult choices to make. Schools are free to choose any provider they like, and the council is under no legal duty to offer an outdoor facility of our own to schools. The Grade II listed building needs a huge amount of work to bring it up to the standard that visitors expect, to be fully accessible by those with physical disabilities and to be able to operate more efficiently. So reluctantly, I’m afraid we must be led by our heads, and not our hearts”.
Any existing bookings that cannot go ahead will have all payments fully refunded and schools offered support to find an alternative provider.
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The centre is set within 35 acres of beautiful mixed woodland, much of which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and includes some rare species of plant.
All our courses are tailor-made in partnership with you, and are designed to meet your specific learning outcomes. With over 30 years of experience in developing and delivering safe and successful outdoor programmes, we are confident that we can cater for your needs and abilities.