Ghyll Head Outdoor Education Centre
- Meeting of Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee, Wednesday, 6th November, 2019 10.00 am (Item 46.)
Report of the Director of Education and the Strategic Director (Neighbourhoods)
This report sets out the work that has been undertaken to examine the option of progressing a new operating arrangement for Ghyll Head as part of the Council’s wider leisure contract.
The Committee received a report of the Director of Education and the Strategic Director (Neighbourhoods) which set out the work that had been undertaken to examine the option of progressing a new operating arrangement for Ghyll Head as part of the Council’s wider leisure contract.
Officers referred to the main points and themes within the report which included:
· Background information;
· The current situation;
· The capital proposal;
· Controlling risk; and
· Next steps.
Jeff Seneviratne outlined his involvement with Ghyll Head, including as a member of the Friends of Ghyll Head. He emphasised the value of outdoor education and welcomed the work outlined in the report. He noted the references in the report to the 50% occupancy rate at Ghyll Head and informed Members that it was unrealistic to expect a 100% occupancy rate because, for example, a school could book the house for one class which would not require all the beds. He advised that the Council should consider how usage of the centre could best be measured. He commented that he hoped the centre could be used to provide outdoor education not only to children but also to families to improve their health and well-being.
Some of the key points and themes that arose from the Committee’s discussions were:
· That Ghyll Head was a well-loved and valuable provision;
· Members shared positive experiences of Ghyll Head from themselves, their family members and other Manchester residents, including Our Children (Looked After Children);
· That the centre could also be used by families whose children were on the edge of care;
· That, with capital investment, Ghyll Head could be marketed commercially, at a higher rate, at weekends;
· Concern that some parents could not afford to send their children to Ghyll Head, while noting that some schools used their own funds to subsidise places;
· The importance of not changing the ethos of the centre; and
· That some schools did not use it.
The Director of Education reported that the intention for the future was that Ghyll Head would not be just a one-off positive experience but something that introduced children to an activity which they could then continue to take part in once they were back in Manchester, for example, at Debdale Outdoor Centre. She confirmed that a number of schools did subsidise places at Ghyll Head for their pupils, advising that schools could use their Pupil Premium, money given to schools to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils, on this. The Strategic Lead (Parks, Leisure, Youth and Events) advised that the contracting arrangements would allow the Council to control the prices and protect prices for Manchester schools. The Director of Education commented that some schools did take their pupils to other centres which also offered similar activities but that this investment would enable Ghyll Head to compete with them.
The Strategic Lead (Parks, Leisure, Youth and Events) reported that Ghyll Head did not currently have a dedicated website and that this was something that would need to be invested in in order for the centre to be able to attract commercial bookings. He advised Members that the ethos and values of Ghyll Head were due to its workforce and that the Council intended to protect the current workforce through this transition period while also giving the centre an element of commercial focus.
The Ward Councillor for Hulme expressed her support for the proposals in the report. She emphasised the importance of recruiting experienced staff, commenting that the centre currently had high quality, experienced staff. She reported that play and youth services and colleges also used Ghyll Head and that they should be encouraged to use it more. She also noted the proposal to establish a Stakeholder Board to oversee and govern the management of the centre and suggested that representatives from the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee and the Friends of Ghyll Head could be involved in this.
The Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure commented that the Council wanted to increase the use of Ghyll Head by Manchester residents and that this included encouraging play and youth providers to use the centre. He reported that consideration would given as to how to engage Members in the work of the Stakeholder Board.
1. To support the proposals in the report wholeheartedly and to recommend to the Executive that the Council invest £1.1 million in capital to achieve this.
2. To recommend that officers look into how Ghyll Head could be used by families whose children are on the edge of care.
3. To request that consideration be given as to how Members and the Friends of Ghyll Head can be engaged in the work of the Stakeholder Board.