Academic journal article Australian Journal of Outdoor Education

Turbulent Times: Outdoor Education in Great Britain 1993-2003

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Outdoor Education

Turbulent Times: Outdoor Education in Great Britain 1993-2003

Article excerpt

Abstract

Outdoor education has a long and well documented history in Great Britain which is regularly linked to Hahn, Gordonstoun School, and the Outward Bound movement. A kayaking tragedy in 1993 resulted in the introduction of new legislation through Parliament. This has led to major changes in outdoor education in Great Britain and extensive debates, which are only partially documented. This paper outlines some of these changes and offers readers references that direct them to more detailed information. In addition, some of the resulting trends and debates that have emerged in the aftermath of the tragedy are provided. The paper concludes by considering some implications for outdoor education as a profession and argues that outdoor educators in Great Britain ought to consider the value of becoming a profession before striving to become one. Finally, some suggestions are made as to why these reflections on' turbulent times' might be relevant to the field of outdoor education in Australia and other countries.

Introduction

This paper summarises and reviews changes in outdoor education in Great Britain since the Lyme Bay tragedy in 1993. Outdoor education has a long history (since the 1940s according to Cook, 1999; Nicol, 2002a) in Great Britain, which is frequently linked to Hahn, Gordonstoun School, and the Outward Bound movement. Those interested in the work of Hahn are advised to read some original texts (Hahn, n.d.) and James (1990). For a well referenced history of outdoor education in Great Britain, see Nicol (2002a, 2002b, 2003). Those interested specifically in outdoor education in Scotland are directed to Higgins, Loynes and Crowther (1997) and Higgins (2002). In addition to the literature above, a number of philosophers have informed outdoor education in Great Britain such as Dewey (1938), Heidegger (1927/1962), Hume (1978) Rousseau (1911/2000) and Wittgenstein (1979). Complementary to the historical literature, publications on the philosophical underpinnings of some approaches to outdoor education have emerged (Higgins, Loynes & Crowther, 1997; Hunt, 1990; Nicol, 2002a, 2002b, 2003; Wurdinger, 1997).

A kayaking tragedy in March 1993 resulted in a great deal of attention in the press and subsequently the introduction of new legislation through Parliament. This has led to major changes in outdoor education in Great Britain and extensive discussions including issues surrounding professionalism in the sector. This paper details some of these changes and developments and reviews the main threads in the discourses. Inevitably, any attempt to review themes and trends cannot be conclusive and without some aspects of debate and contention. Where possible, evidence is supplied so readers can follow up on various points, but in some areas experience is the only evidence, which can be drawn upon. We have structured the paper around some themes that illustrate various aspects of outdoor education in Great Britain. These themes are not intended to be exhaustive or definitive but provide a starting point for readers who wish to learn more. However, we have also tried to highlight some of the undercurrents, or themes, which we believe hold potential to connect provision in the future and contribute to the growth of outdoor education in Great Britain. It is also clear to see throughout the paper how the discussion of a range of issues and themes may relate to outdoor education in Australia and highlight some commonalities as well as differences.

Changes as a result of the Lyme Bay tragedy and some influences on education

One of the most significant changes in outdoor education in Great Britain came as a result of a kayaking tragedy in March 1993. A group of eight pupils and their teacher were accompanied by two instructors from an outdoor centre on the south coast of England. As a result of a series of errors and circumstances, four of the teenagers drowned. The subsequent trial resulted in the prosecution of the parent company and the centre manager. …

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