Thought this would be worth a share on here. A possible sign of the times?
Pretty sad to see from my point of view. I’ve used their facilities at Blackland Farm multiple times with cadets. It’s a great local (ish) asset! Sort of hoping whoever buys out the centres carries on running them as outdoor activity centres that you can hire out certain bits as it is now.
I’m sure lots of people on here will have used these centres at some point as bases for DofE, or hiring out abseil towers/climbing walls etc!
We’ve used Foxlease a few times previously. Really nice centre, lots of space and activities. Staff were sound - very welcoming, and bent over backwards to accommodate us… Got a freelance offer from them too!!!
I don’t get the overseas thing - that helps them have a really nice big international footprint. Whilst it didn’t rival the Scouting movement, it had a different vibe. It was about a feeling of belonging to the girls travelling overseas with parents - something familiar and supportive when everything else was new and different. If I recall, they also had relatively high fees for membership - so why it wasnt able to sustain and pay for itself, I don’t know!!
Maybe it’s the new committees appetite for risk - lack of DBS check systems overseas, following local Laws which may not be in keeping or conflicting with UK Laws etc
As for the Centres. As LAs found over the last few years, they are money pits in a time of cutbacks and austerity. Hell, Centre Parcs can’t get it right and are selling up - and think how much they charge!!! Looking at the GG trustee’s justification, it looks like the sites are underutilised. When we’ve used it - just for a few weekend jaunts for multiactivity camps, or a base to work from for DofE, there wasn’t a GG group in sight - all were third parties (and we paid a lot more than GG units!).
The PGL/Kingswood model - last years safeguarding issues aside - seems to be quite successful; but they’ve got the education market sewn up following the collapse of LA lead OECs. And they’re back in the summer holiday/Parents Get Lost game now too. Not to mention corporate team building events.
Last year, Kingswood got a block booking for the Sea Cadets to deliver their Junior Cadet Summer Camp programme - around 500 Junior Sea Cadets having a week of fun. All catered and accommodated and lots of activities over the week for VERY low cost.
ALL our primary schools have been using PGL since the LA sold off its OEC in 2009. Both our former LA OECs are cheaper than PGL - and has a richer and more diverse offer of activities - but they are now being utilised by “nearer” schools who are block booking the centre 1-2 years in advance.
BUT, having recent involvement with the PGL staff, they all describe it as an activity farm - a conveyor belt of kids on activities.
On the plus side, PGL do accept Childcare vouchers - so we’re probably shipping our kids off their for a week next summer just to burn up some of our surplus vouchers!!!
I previously worked with a national programme (outside of school) that used a lot of Kingswood and PGL sites. There are always numerous safeguarding complaints and accusations of a conveyor belt because, ultimately, they’re private businesses and profit comes before all else.
Pre-Covid Kingswood nationally almost lost their contract with us, as the biggest out-of-school provision, due to the poor safeguarding actions at one of their sites. It would have hit their pocket to the tune of millions each year.
I’m starting to see elements, to a lesser degree, of “numbers, numbers, numbers” in the actions of the Corps too, which concerns me.