Articles and publications
YHA strategic priority is to ensure access, inclusion and diversity across all of our work. To ensure that our charitable resources are for all.
To be certain that access for all means all — that those who stay with us, benefit from our provision and support, our employees and volunteers, reflect the demographics of England and Wales.
Key Performance Indicator from YHA Strategy 10 Year Strategy; Adventure for the first time and for a lifetime
And this indicator for success includes our trustee board. Trustees set the strategic direction for a charity and are responsible for the organisation’s assets. Recruiting new trustees is an important part of charity success and ensuring that trustees have both a rounded skill set and diverse lived experiences are repeatedly evidenced as factors in charity effectiveness. Diversity, access, inclusion and equity are not just morally right they are business critical.
I love this picture. 7 year old seeing the sea for first time after lockdown. Absolute freedom. And very wet trainers 20 seconds later.
Trips matter. Experiences matter. Stays away from home matter. It matters that we live on an island and thousands of children reach secondary school having never seen the sea. Yes really.
So as the Department for Education allows day activities and trips but continues to stress the absolute priority for ‘academic catch-up’; and some schools are having to narrow their academic curriculum because of the resources needed to support social distancing; with government guidance still advising against residentials – what can we do to ensure that the gap in experiences between those who have easy access and those that don’t doesn’t continue to increase?
It’s devastating to know that over 500,000 young people are missing out on their first residential this year. And as much as parents across the globe have taken on the task of home schooling, it’s safe to say that outdoor learning is going to be a part of the recovery for children and young people as we move back to a more ‘normal’ way of life. In the meantime though, it’s important that we engage them with colourful ideas for planning future adventures, connect them with wildlife and excite them with endless possibilities to explore the world around them.
We are now just over a month into the lockdown and two months since the Coronavirus started to dominate every aspect of our lives.
I have written here about the what this means for YHA strategy in this piece on Strategy in an Unknown Future and on the charity’s increasing relevance in helping recovery as families are clear on the importance of the outdoors and holidays to their well-being.
But ahead of longer term planning I want to take some time to reflect on YHA’s work over recent weeks. Because – I say with clear bias – it has been an astounding effort true to both our charity values but also our position as a successful and strong social enterprise.
Job titles are tricky sometimes. I am Executive Director of Strategy and Engagement at YHA. Kind of long, little bit poncey and nobody understands it. It needs work.
It is – I have discovered over the years in various roles – particularly challenging to describe the strategy bit. For some it’s combining the vision of the ideal with the art of the possible. For others it’s the dark arts.
Outdoor adventures. From running away from waves to climbing a mountain; to noses in the mud following a worm to the first time you fell out of a tree. For many of us our most vivid childhood memories come from exploring outdoors. And the benefits of the outdoors are well evidenced. On health and well being, On learning. On creativity, resilience and ‘character’. And just for fun.
But also – and yes it is dramatic input – our survival as a species requires the next generation to be connected to the planet; to the outdoors, to nature and to the environment. But access to the outdoors is not equitable. Money, access, fear of risk, disability – many things stand in the way. And we know it is often those who might benefit the most from adventure in the outdoors that have the least opportunity to benefit from its powers.
When our third child is weeping with anxiety, clinging to the banisters and begging us to not to send him to school today our hearts break. For him and his pain. For his siblings now late. For the school that he loves and is doing such a good job helping him manage his panic attacks. But also, the thought that goes through our heads is less generous but just as vital – panic as we start to rearrange our day where one or both of us will be either late or off work.
I love the National Trust. Kids ran riot in several of their properties over the summer (sorry). And I was struck by their inclusion in this pretty sensible list of money saving tips for children’s holiday adventures.
Indeed, National Trust and other membership schemes can present great value. Below are some examples of passes that could be included in list. This makes no statement about how family friendly they are or the value they present. But for many – regardless of value per visit – they are still unaffordable.
As we look at access to cultural capital – to nature, arts, heritage, sports and the broadest range of social and enrichment experiences – we know that many families stand on the periphery. While there are – reasonable and important – ongoing debates about whose culture is valued, the reality is that there are many families who do not get the same access to public or charitably funded resources as their peers. The reasons for this are multiple and while some are complex and need further exploration the reality is that there are a number of simple steps that settings and providers could take that would enable a broader range of families to access their services.
Resilience is currently a bit of a toxic word currently. The idea that we need to build young people’s resilience to ‘survive’ some of society’s contemporary challenges has hints of ‘victim’ blaming. Living in poverty – toughen up. Experienced trauma – develop grit. Mental illness – not strong enough. This is not where Every Child Should is coming from.
Part of my work over 2018 through Every Child Should is to look at the importance of outdoor learning and connections to nature for every child. My own personal experiences as a lover of adventurous activities, combined with the work I have done over the years with organisations that work in this field, has shown me the value of this work on well-being and happiness.
The strength of consortiums in affecting change is a core principle of Every Child Should. As is the belief that all children should be included in all aspects of education. In her recent piece for Schools Week Anita Kerwin-Nye talks about the change affected by Whole School SEND in the battle for inclusion.
Ecotherapy. I confess I rolled my eyes at the title. An attempt to medicalise the language attached to something many of us just know to be true – being outside makes us feel better. But, if the word further embeds outdoor experiences into approaches to mental health the title works for me.
Anita Kerwin-Nye leads the Every Child Should Campaign and is a key note speaker at the CLOtC conference on 16 November 2017.
Anita’s paper, on why and how the charity sector should communicate, looks back on ICAN’s initiative to establish greater collaboration in the field of communication disability. This paper led to the DCSF funding the establishment of The Communication Trust – a not for profit coalition of over 40 traditionally competing charities – which Anita founded and led as Director until 2012. The Trust was recognised by the Cabinet Office and Third Sector as an example of best practice in effective collaborative working.