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Trust could take over two Bradford Council educational centres
9:00am Saturday 14th September 2013 in News
Two Council-owned outdoor learning centres in the Dales could soon be run by a specially-created charitable trust.
Buckden House in Upper Wharfedale and Ingleborough Hall in Clapham are used by schools in Bradford and Leeds for residential stays and day trips.
But the centres – which offer activities like rock climbing, caving and orienteering – have suffered from dwindling visitor numbers and run at a loss.
The centres cost about £1 million a year to run but only make three-quarters of this back through clients’ stays.
They also are not operating at capacity – in 2011-12 occupancy rates were as low as 50 per cent at Buckden House.
Last year the Council said it was no longer willing to provide its annual £73,000-a-year subsidy and said the centres needed to be self-financing.
Amid fears the centres could close, the Council worked with the Schools Forum to find a way to secure their future.
The forum – a committee of head teachers, governors and others which advises the Council on education matters – allocated £1 million of Council money to refurbish the centres in a bid to attract more visitors.
The investment also covered the Nell Bank Centre at Ilkley, which is already run by a trust.
A report going before the Council’s executive said the schools were keen for Ingleborough and Buckden to be run as a trust as well. This would give the schools a greater say in the way they were run.
The move has been welcomed by executive member for children’s services, Councillor Ralph Berry, who said: “I’m very excited by it, I think it’s brilliant.”
Coun Berry said while other local authorities had sold off such centres, this would secure their long-term future.
He said: “Also, it puts the schools in the driving seat. It means the local authority no longer acts as an intermediary.”
The idea was also welcomed by Ian Murch, of the National Union of Teachers, who sits on the forum.
He said the centres were a great asset to the district’s schools.
He said: “They give an experience that if they weren’t there, schools would find very hard to organise for themselves.”
It is hoped the ongoing investment, along with a new marketing plan, will attract more visitors.
The decision to set up a trust is recommended to be rubber-stamped at a meeting of Bradford Council’s Executive on Tuesday.
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