News

Killowen Centre Closure would be a 'Travesty'

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

THERE are growing fears that Killowen Outdoor Activity Centre is closing as the Education Authority launches a review of its portfolio of outdoor and residential education facilities.

A concerned resident contacted The Democrat to express her concerns for the centre's future, with the Authority confirming it is to undertake a 12 week investigatory review of its entire range of facilities, starting on November 14.

Her concerns come as over 600 people have put their name to a petition on the change.org website, calling for the facility to be saved.

Believing it would be an astounding decison to cull the popular centre due to the pastoral, social and education benefits it brings to the community, the lady said: This astounds me, as in an age of childhood obesity, one would think that closing an outdoor pursuits establishment that has been in existence for more than thirty years would be lunacy.

It has been an establishment heavily utilised by schools, youth clubs, local residents, and the disabled community. It runs an extensive outdoors programme, that bolsters participants confidence, offers participants a new skill set and gives participants a sense of environmental awareness/responsibility.

The lady commented that it would be a travesty for the South Down area if the centre was to close its doors, and said that the centre had taught life-skills to an innumerable number of children since opening more than 30 years ago.

She said: Killowen Outdoor Education Centre is a very modern, well equipped fully catered centre which provides residential accommodation for some 50 students, therefore it seems an absolute travesty that such a reputable centre is being closed.

Without Killowen Centre, I would never in my wildest dreams have thought that I could become an accomplished sailor as it always seemed like a sport reserved for the wealthy, and therefore a luxury which quite frankly my family would otherwise not have been able to afford."

The resident said that the rationale of any decision to close Killowen would have to be explained, given the detrimental impact it would have on jobs, tourism and the wider economy of the area.

She said: Not only will the closure of Killowen Outdoor Education Centre result in the loss of jobs, it will impact upon the health and welfare of our youth, it will take away from tourism in the area, and it is a loss not only to the region but to Northern Ireland as a whole.

Henceforth, it should be thoroughly investigated as to why the future of Killowen Outdoor Education Centre hangs in the balance and the Education Authority should be asked to provide hard evidence for its reason to close such a long running successful establishment.

An Education Authority spokesperson confirmed that a review is beginning on November 14, but declined to confirm at this stage whether any of their facilities were going to close.

The spokesperson said: The Education Authority (EA) has undertaken a review of residential and outdoor education. The purpose of this review was to ensure the effective use of Outdoor Education Centres and Youth Service resources.

It also aimed to identify areas of good practice as well as areas for improvement and make recommendations for future delivery of the service linked to the Youth Service s Priorities for Youth Policy.

As part of the review, a number of strategic and operational recommendations have been made. These will be subject to a twelve week consultation commencing on 14 November 2016. It would be inappropriate to comment on the recommendations made in advance of the publication of the review."

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