Open letter to Craig Hatton NAC Chief Executive
Dear Mr Hatton,
My name is Jim Hughes and I worked in Education in NAC for 32 years, until I retired in June 2022. I worked in many schools including, Springside PS, Corsehill PS and latterly as Head Teacher at Stanley PS from 2008-2022. All of these schools are areas of high deprivation with the majority pupils living in deciles 1 or 2.
For this reason I am writing to you as an extremely concerned resident of NA having become aware that Arran Outdoor Centre is being considered for closure to save approx 387k per year, what is not mentioned is the revenue that the centre brings in that would reduce the above figure considerably.
I attended the Outdoor Centre every year from 1996-2022, longer than anyone else in NAC Education. I supported the journey from Whiting Bay Youth Hostel to the fantastic facilities that our children now have, meaning I have accompanied approx 1200 children-on a residential week to Arran.
I believe that this makes me well qualified to speak about the experience that the children have whilst there, because I experienced it with them.
The impact on all of these pupils shows in their attitude, self esteem, confidence, resilience, teamwork, ambition, determination, work ethic, achievement, success, mental health, independence and social and emotional behaviour.
Throughout my career in Education, I continued to meet the pupils I accompanied as they moved on to secondary, into adulthood and became parents themselves and the one thing they speak about is their experience on Arran, their achievements while they were there and the profound effect that it had on them as individuals.
The consideration for closure of the Arran Outdoor Centre, is completely at odds with the values of NAC. As is very well publicised, the country is in the midst of a Mental Health Crisis and a major resource that can impact this and the futures of our children and young people, is being considered for closure. I firmly believe that if you are serious about upholding and promoting the values of Focus, Passion and Inspiration then this unique resource/service for our children and young people must be maintained.
This is not about saving money, this is about children and building their capacity to contribute to the sign that greets you on every main road boundary across NAC-A better life? The proposed closure of this resource, which is the envy of every other authority across, not just Scotland, but the whole of the UK-because of its unique location, is completely and utterly short sighted and I would suggest that it be removed from the list of services under consideration for closure.
The denial of this week long residential visit that has a lasting impact on every pupil who has attended, will have a huge impact on all of these children and will most certainly lead to an unsustainable impact/ burden on other services across NAC.
The impact on Island life in these particularly difficult times must be challenging. To close, this unique resource with the loss of jobs and the support to many island businesses, seems not to make financial sense. In fact, it goes against our very own NAC community wealth-building statement keeping money within North Ayrshire. If the centre were to close the money spent by NAC schools would go outwith the authority.
If I know my, very recent, former colleagues they recognise the substantial benefits of a visit to Arran for their children. They will continue to offer this to their pupils through the use of their PEF money - which councils across Scotland have no jurisdiction over, the down side is that money will be lost to NAC.
Furthermore, I am aware that NAC are and will be continued to be required to set targets linked to energy efficiency, carbon emissions reduction etc through the green promise. If I am correct and I am sure that I am, closure of the Arran Outdoor Centre, which lies within NAC, would mostly certainly increase Carbon emissions when pupils have to travel further afield.
However, the biggest impact would be on our children and their health, social, emotional and mental well-being.
My personal opinion is that anyone in council office who votes for the closure of the Arran Centre is not acting in the best interests of the future of NAC. Some of these children are your current workforce and those still at school are the future of North Ayrshire.
The public sector exists to serve their constituents, I appeal to you, in the strongest possible terms to collectively serve our children, who are the future of North Ayrshire, by ensuring that Arran Outdoor Centre remains open. I believe you are accountable to them.