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Charitable trust closer to taking over outdoor learning centres
Two Bradford Council-owned outdoor learning centres in the Dales are a step closer to being run by a specially created charitable trust.
And three of the trustees are likely to be head teachers in a bid to involve schools more closely in the running of the centres.
Buckden House in Upper Wharfedale and Ingleborough Hall in Clapham are used by schools for residential stays and day trips.
But the centres – which offer activities like rock climbing, caving and orienteering – have outdated facilities and run at a loss because of dwindling numbers.
They cost about £1 million a year to run but make only three-quarters of this back through visitors’ 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 they 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 who advise 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 Council-owned Nell Bank Centre at Ilkley, which is already run by a trust.
A report going before a Council committee said the schools were keen for Ingleborough and Buckden to be run as a trust as well, which would give the schools a greater say in the way they were run.
The move was approved by the Council’s Executive last September and more details of how a trust would run are being presented to the Council’s Governance and Audit Committee tomorrow.
It reveals that two primary school heads and one secondary school head will be invited to become trustees, as well as one member of the existing Nell Bank Jubilee Trust.
Councillor Ralph Berry, executive member for children’s services, said: “We are putting head teachers in charge. It’s a very innovative model of securing these assets for the future.”
The renovations, which include a much-needed revamp for the children’s shower and toilets and the staff accommodation areas, have now started.