Education and training boards operate twelve outdoor education and training centres (OETCs) across the country and an Outdoor Education Support Service in Dublin.
Minister Collins visited the OETC on Achill Island, established in 1971 as the first of its kind in Ireland, to launch the framework and congratulate those behind it on their vision for the future of outdoor training.
Speaking, Minister Collins said, “a deep appreciation of the natural environment is at the very heart of the outdoor education and training sector and will be intrinsic in its future growth in embedding these principles in its activities and their positioning as centres of progressive education in promoting a sustainable environment.”
“Young people in both mainstream education and Youthreach initiatives have benefitted greatly through these initiatives, in not only discovering skills specific to outdoor activities, but also skills in communication, teamwork, problem solving and critical thinking which are valuable for young people as active citizens. Indeed, the scope for outdoor education and training centres as centres for fostering inclusion are immense, with the opportunities for linkages with broader FET provision enabling adult learners and many non-traditional learners from ethnic minorities, areas of designated disadvantage, and disabilities to benefit from the resources and expertise on offer.”
Staff from ETB outdoor education centres gathered for the two-day event, including a specially-convened meeting of ETB and OETC directors, and held training sessions with a particular focus on sustainability and the green agenda.
Welcoming attendees, Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) Director of Further Education and Training, Fiona Maloney, said, “a transformative outdoor experience can contribute to the development of our learners’ environmental stewardship empowering them to reach their full potential and to contribute to society at all stages of their lives, to develop the personal and social skills necessary to be active citizens, effective employees and drivers of change for a better environment and a more sustainable future.”
The vision outlined in the framework for ETB Outdoor Education and Training Provision as Outdoor Education and Training Centres is one where OETCs will:
- Provide high-quality, transformative outdoor education and training experiences that are inclusive, accessible, affordable and sustainable.
- Provide learning experiences in the outdoors that focus on personal and social development and that create a connection to, and care for the natural environment.
- Be a driving force for the development of high-quality outdoor education and training experiences empowering participants, at all stages of their lives, to develop the personal and social skills necessary to be active citizens, effective employees and drivers of change for a better environment and a more sustainable future.
There is also a strong focus on enabling themes including learner centred provision, staffing and networks, data management and capital infrastructure.
The framework also provides for a greater focus on sustainability, teacher and youth leader training, meta skills development, wellbeing and community education programmes.
Minister Collins added, “the challenge for Government and public bodies such as ETBs is planning for the future in a context which is constantly changing and impacted by global trends and events.”
“This is especially so in the field of further education and training, that strives to meet the demands of a rapidly changing society and economy, and the increasingly diverse needs of the learner population. I would like to acknowledge and thank ETBI for the work on this new and exciting strategy.”