Y Pwyllgor Cyllid

Finance Committee


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Mike Hedges
Peredur Owen Griffiths Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Peter Fox
Rhianon Passmore

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Christian Tipples Y Gwasanaeth Ymchwil
Research Service
Dr Dave Harvey Aelodau'r Senedd a'u Staff Cymorth
Member of the Senedd Support Staff
Michael Dauncey Y Gwasanaeth Ymchwil
Research Service
Sam Rowlands Aelod Cyfrifol
Member in Charge

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Cerian Jones Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Leanne Hatcher Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Mike Lewis Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Owain Roberts Clerc
Rhiannon Williams Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:31.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:31.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Croeso cynnes i’r cyfarfod yma o’r Pwyllgor Cyllid. Mae’n braf bod efo chi ar fore fel hyn, ac mae gennym ni sesiwn heddiw yn edrych ar Fil Aelod, felly mae hwnna’n mynd i fod yn ddiddorol. Ond, cyn hynny, jest i ddweud bod y cyfarfod yma'n cael ei ddarlledu’n fyw ar Senedd.tv a dydw i ddim wedi derbyn unrhyw ymddiheuriadau. Dwi jest eisiau gofyn a oes yna unrhyw ddatganiadau i'w gwneud—datganiadau o fuddiannau. Dim byd, dwi ddim yn gweld. Felly, dyna ni efo hynny. Dwi hefyd yn gweld—.

A warm welcome to this meeting of the Finance Committee. It's good to be with you this morning and we have a session today looking at a Member's Bill, and so that's going to be very interesting. But, before that, just to note that the meeting is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv and I haven't received any apologies. I just want to ask Members whether they have any interests to declare. I see that there aren't. And so that's it with that. I also see—.

I'm seeing some friends from Fiji joining us this morning. So, welcome. Some clerks from the Fijian Parliament, I believe. It's good to see you and I hope you find this interesting. 

Croeso i chi.

A warm welcome to you.

2. Papurau i'w nodi
2. Papers to note

I'll move on to the second item this morning, which is the papers to note. We're got minutes, catching up on minutes, and then we've got three papers to note—three letters from Ministers with updates, so thanks to them for responding to us.

Anything to say or shall we note those for the record? Rhianon.

Thanks, Chair. In regards to the update around the interministerial standing committee on 25 January, it's really good that we're getting that, and I think it's really great to hear what the Minister has reiterated at the meeting. It would be quite interesting to know what the responses were, however, to those requests, because it lists the issues that we're all very familiar with, but it would be interesting to know what the response was, actually, as well. 

Yes, it might be something that we can pick up with the Minister when she comes in next. We'll make a note of that and try and find some time. If that's not going to happen in the short term, then maybe we can write to the Minister and ask her for a further update on that. But that's something we can note. Other than that, are we able to note those papers? Fine. Thank you very much. Diolch yn fawr. 

3. Goblygiadau ariannol y Bil Addysg Awyr Agored Breswyl (Cymru): Sesiwn dystiolaeth
3. Financial Implications of the Residential Outdoor Education (Wales) Bill: Evidence session

Okay. We'll move on to our substantive item this morning then, and welcome to Sam Rowlands and his team. We're going to be talking about the financial implications of the Residential Outdoor Education (Wales) Bill and we've had supporting documents from the Bill team—thank you very much—and from Sam. I know we took some evidence from the Minister before the half-term break, so we'll probably touch on some of that in our discussions this morning. 

Would you either introduce or ask your team to introduce themselves for the record, please?

Yes, thanks, Chairman. I'll ask my team to introduce themselves. Christian. 

I'm Christian Tipples. I'm a financial researcher at the Senedd. 

Michael Dauncey, education researcher in Senedd Research in the Senedd. 

Yes. Dave Harvey, supporting Sam Rowlands. 


Yes. So, there is me, isn't there? Sam Rowlands, Member of the Senedd for North Wales.

Thank you very much, and thank you for your attendance this morning. As you'll be aware, there will be a record of this, a transcript of this, that you can check for accuracy afterwards. On 7 February, we took evidence from the education Minister, and, obviously, this is the second evidence session that we've got with yourself. So, we'll plough into a few questions. I think we've got you for an hour or so, hopefully, and we've got quite a bit of ground to cover, so it'd be great to get your thoughts on this Bill.

I'd like to start with exploring the background of the Bill and relevant issues identified during the scrutiny and how they could impact on costs, as this is the Finance Committee, obviously. A key provision in the Bill is that Welsh Ministers must pay a local authority an amount sufficient to enable functions relating to the provision of residential outdoor education. Can you provide some background as to why the provision around funding is required, and maybe, before answering that question, just give us a quick overview of your thoughts on the Bill as well?

Thanks, Chair, and thank you for having me with you this morning. I'm not sure you have a huge amount of choice on that, with Member Bills, but I appreciate it nonetheless. And I also recognise that you've taken evidence, as you say, from the Minister before the half-term break as well. This is my fourth appearance in front of a committee in relation to my Bill, before we go to a vote in the Senedd Chamber in the middle of April.

My Bill, as a quick overview, seeks to ensure that every child in Wales has a paid-for opportunity of four nights of residential outdoor education. I think, and many people think, that residential outdoor education is a really valuable part of a child's education and experience. There are lots of benefits, which are explained in my explanatory memorandum, which I appreciate isn't necessarily the remit of this committee, but, nonetheless, I think it's worth reiterating the importance in terms of a young person's mental health, physical health and also an appreciation of the outdoors and all that that encompasses around climate change as well. And that is important, recognising the broad impacts of residential outdoor education, because that then feeds to your substantive question around why, on the face of the Bill, there's an ask or a call for funding directly into this. Because it is unusual to have that on the face of a Bill, and this was a line of questioning from the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee as well, and I completely accept that it's unusual. But the purpose of that, really, was to ensure that it wasn't just seen through an education lens, and the education Minister—he may have spoken to you about it here as well—seems to think that this Bill is purely to be funded from an education pot, where there's no ask for that at all; it was never the intention. Because of the impact of outdoor education on all parts of a young person's life—I've mentioned mental health, physical health, an appreciation of the environment—there's nothing stopping, at all, Welsh Government, across its full breadth of departments, coming together to see how this can be supported and properly funded. This is also intended to ensure that it's new money coming into this, rather than taking money away from existing school budgets, in particular, because I know, in the consultation, that was a nervousness of some schools—that they would be losing their really important and very tight school budget, as it exists today, to fund this Bill. That was never the intention at all. It's about bringing new money in and for Welsh Government to look across the remit of its work and to understand how this Bill could be funded. So, that was the reason for that being in the Bill.

Okay, thank you very much for that. One of the discussions during the scrutiny of the Bill has been around the definition of residential outdoor education. Do you think that the Bill and the regulatory impact assessment are clear about what constitutes residential outdoor education? And if the definition is uncertain, does it create a risk to accurately estimating the level of resources required to deliver the Bill?

You're absolutely right, there have been a number of questions around the definition, and I appreciate that, because the face of the Bill itself does not put a definition in there. Within the explanatory memorandum, there is a section called 'Definition of residential outdoor education', so the EM seeks to at least put a framework around what a definition could or should be. But if there's a need to have that much more clearly defined, then you'd expect—as I propose—a residential outdoor education code to be used to help define that and, perhaps, guidance, which is also outlined on the face of the Bill, could be used to help define that.

But there are a couple of reasons why I haven't put it on the face of the Bill. First of all, it's worth recognising that residential outdoor education already happens. This is not a whole new world being created called residential outdoor education. A significant number of children have this great experience at some point in their schooling already. The issue is it's not guaranteed, and not everyone is able to afford that experience. That's what the Bill is trying to deal with. So, there's certainly a well-known understanding of what residential outdoor education is at the moment as well.

The second element on this is that, through the consultation, it became clear that schools, in particular—. And I certainly believe in this, and it's in the ethos of the Curriculum for Wales that there should be an element of flexibility. Teachers know what's best for their learners in their classroom, the Curriculum for Wales provides flexibility generally, and this Bill is to sit within the Curriculum for Wales. So, there needs to be an element of flexibility for teachers, and headteachers in particular, to know what type of setting and what type of experience is going to best suit the children that they have in front of them. And then, if a definition was put on the face of the Bill, if there was to be a slight change to that, you can imagine the legislative process that would have to take place to make that change. So, with it being in the code, with it being within guidance, I think it's a much better place for that definition to be.


So, with regards to that definition within the guidance, can you foresee any issues around—? If we're talking about local procurement, for example, would you foresee, to be able to help, effectively, the Welsh tourism industry or Welsh outdoor residential settings—? Could that be a potential benefit to the local economy to say, 'Well, actually, this needs to happen in Wales where possible'? Is that something that you've explored during this process?

So, the part there, within Wales, I've been very clear in the guidance that, first of all, there must be provision that residential outdoor education be provided in Welsh, subject to availability, where requested by a school. So, there's a requirement within the guidance—. The Minister must put that into guidance, and also that the education promotes understanding of Welsh language and culture. So, there's certainly a move to ensure that there's a benefit for centres within Wales. Let's be really straight, though: the Bill does not restrict schools from accessing those centres, perhaps, on the border, because there are some excellent centres just over the border as well, and, for those schools that are of closer proximity, that would just make more sense. But that provision, whether it's in England or within Wales, would need to at least promote an understanding of the Welsh language and culture and be provided in Welsh if a school requested it to be so.

Okay, thank you for that. You've suggested it's not your intention to make this residential outdoor education compulsory. How is that reflected in the Bill and the RIA, and what is the potential impact on the ability to estimate costs if outdoor education is or isn't compulsory? So, if it was compulsory, then you could possibly model it better, because you'd know exactly what the uptake would be, which, therefore, would be easier from a finance point of view, to say, 'Well, that's how much it's going to cost', whereas, if it's not compulsory, then you've got an issue with uptake and you might be providing for something that isn't taken up. So, can you see that there are pros and cons for both arguments, but whether or not—? How have you come down on your side of that argument, if you like, and can you see the benefits of the other side? And, obviously, maybe talk us through your thought process there.

I think it's a really good question, and I suspect that if I was sat here and had made an estimate of the take-up, I could well be criticised for not ensuring enough funding had been made available in case 100 per cent of children did decide to take this experience up. So, to be clear, the RIA assumes, just from a purely mathematical calculation point of view, that 100 per cent of children do take up this experience. Now, that's probably unlikely, but we do know that in the consultation, this is an experience—and I'm sure yourself, Chair, recognise this as well—children generally want to do this, and the uptake would be, you'd expect, very, very close to 100 per cent. There may be a reason why some wouldn't, but I guess, from a Finance Committee point of view, what's in front of you from a finance point of view is the worst-case scenario, as it were; it's the uppermost limit.


It depends how you look at it. [Laughter.] You're very positive this morning; perhaps I have a glass half empty today. But, yes, there is no underestimation, I think, is the key to this, within what's in front of you.

So, it's the maximum envelope, effectively, that you're trying to look at.

Thank you. In regard to the current status quo, how have you explored the current context for pupils who the schools will know and who have indicated that they would like to go on an outdoor education visit, and who would be already assisted by the pupil deprivation grant or other current school budgets, because a school will have a duty to be able to look after that pupil?

So, I think it's an important point to recognise that there are some informal schemes in place, as Rhianon Passmore's pointed out, where some schools choose to use the pupil development grant. There's nothing in the guidance on the pupil development grant that suggests that schools should use that money to support those young people, so it's usually at the discretionary point of view from the local authority working with the schools.

So, there's some great work in place at the moment around that, and there are some great funding schemes that organisations or even private companies want to support children in this position. But, sadly, that is not consistent across Wales, and it's not guaranteed. Let's go back to the point of this Bill: it's to guarantee that every child has the opportunity of this experience, and they're not held back depending on their socioeconomic circumstances—it's not going to be a matter for them. So, Rhianon Passmore may have some great examples, and I'm sure she does, from her constituency, where schools are supporting those children who are least well off. There are some, sadly, other examples where schools aren't able to do that at all, and so children just can't have this experience, and we all know as Members the pressures that school budgets are under, and particularly that PDG grant that you referred to is under particular pressure at the moment as well.

So, I've spent nearly the last two years looking at this, and it's something that's gone through my mind as well, but I come back to the premise of the Bill is the guarantee, and the only way that the guarantee can take place is if there is funding that backs it up.

Great, thank you very much for that. The final question, really, from me, before I move on to Mike Hedges: the RIA does not include the costs associated with additional clothing and equipment, such as footwear, spare coats, et cetera. Are you concerned that the costs to pupils for these types of items may remain a barrier for some pupils, and have you considered how that would be overcome?

Again, it's an important question, and absolutely something that I've considered through all of this. I think there are probably three points I'll try to make around this, and you're right to show that there are costs, or there can be costs, associated with experiences that cause anxiety and could be a perceived barrier. But, ultimately, the first cost is the cost of the trip itself, so let's just come back to that this Bill would seek to remove that, and that's by far and most the largest cost, and the one that causes the most anxiety for young people, and their parents as well.

I think the second point on this is to say that the centres themselves do provide the equipment that is required for these experiences. Now, sometimes that can be a little more specialist—so, heavy-duty raincoats or waterproof trousers, whatever that might be—those are provided, and I've visited a huge number of these centres over the past nearly two years, and I always go to their store to see what sort of equipment they have, and they explain what is available to the young people who turn up to those.

And the third point, then, is the importance of the school essentials grant, and I think when the Minister was in front of you here he explained that the school essentials grant has been increased in recent times and he recognised the importance of that grant himself. And that grant is there to ensure that those children who perhaps don’t have—. I’m not talking about the specialist equipment, I’m not talking about the trip itself, but perhaps what many may consider basic necessities. That school essentials grant is there to make sure that those children have that equipment that they may need for that experience. So, if that grant needs to be bolstered—the Minister has said that is has been increased in recent times, which is a positive thing—if it needs to be bolstered further, I think that’s an issue for the Minister to explore.


Thank you very much. I'll bring Mike Hedges in at this point. Diolch yn fawr.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. The cost of the Bill is showing at between £14 million and £20 million a year, which is a range better than an awful lot of Government Bills that have come before us in the past. The Welsh Government says that this is not affordable and that,

'there are other demands in the system that we would want to make sure had that additional funding first.'

You’ve said it’s a matter of priorities. Do you think the Bill is affordable?

I think you used the right words there, Mike, in your question: it’s a matter of priorities. Government can afford whatever it chooses to afford. It does though mean that there are pressures elsewhere. I’m not denying that at all. I’m not saying that flippantly—please hear me correctly on that. I think one of the frustrations I have as a Member of the Senedd—and I think we all have from time to time—is sometimes the short-termism of decision making and the impact on people in the short term is often a much, much higher priority than in the long term. And the whole point of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 is to ensure that we’re not just looking at the here and now, but we’re looking much further into the future. And I say that because I believe that these experiences are part of that building of resilience and a more confident generation of young people today that will see them into the future, get them connected to the outdoors and get them connected to those physical activities, and for those young people to understand the mental health benefits of these experiences as well. So, I absolutely accept that this not a cheap Bill. I’m not pretending it is. I haven’t attempted to suggest that this will, within two years, pay for itself or anything ridiculous like that. I think it’s an investment, but it’s a worthwhile investment.

Thank you. The Bill means that the Welsh Government will fund local authorities for residential outdoor education. What mechanism do you expect them to use: add it to the block grant or do it on claims?

So, I haven't outlined that on the face of the Bill. I would expect that, if I was doing this, I wouldn’t want it on a claims basis because I think that, administratively, for local authorities and schools in particular, that would become fairly burdensome to say the least. I would expect there to be a grant process. I guess the calculation would be the average number of learners per year multiplied by the estimated cost per learner. So, I think that will be included in the block grant. You will know, Mike, that there is the unhypothecated section of the funding, but also there's what I think is a couple of billion pounds these days in the specific grants section of the funding to local authorities, and I suspect that that will be the best place for it.

So, you wouldn't put it out through the block grant, which would mean that it would go out by formula, which means that there will be some winners and some losers.

I wonder—. I mean, we're talking hypothetically, I guess, but I wonder, once the Bill has been in place for a certain number of years, where there seems to be a very clear cycle and funding level required, once that grant element is finished, then you can imagine it moving into the block grant, much like, let’s not forget, the way that Welsh Government currently do many of their policy implementations: they will provide specific grants to support a specific policy, but after a couple of years, they usually move it into the unhypothecated pot.

Mike, if I could just come in on that point, sorry. With hypothecating, you've been a council leader, and hypothecating and telling you what to do isn't something that you probably appreciate from Welsh Government. Why would this be any different in that sense?


I recognise that there's a need to ensure that a policy is deliverable in the first instance. So, I personally don't have an issue with something being a specific grant for a short period of time. I think what we've seen in the past is that not being reviewed and just decades down the line—'decades' is an exaggeration, sorry, but years down the line, that hasn't been reviewed and it's been still in a specific grant. That's why I suggested that I would suspect that, after a fairly short period of time, once the system is up and running properly, you could see it moving into the unhypothecated part of that grant allocation.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. You've included a range of costs in the regulatory impact assessment. Can you explain why and what level of uncertainty there is around these figures? And can I just say that Welsh Government, as I said earlier, don't come in with a range as close as this on a lot of occasions, so this is not meant as a criticism?

No, that's appreciated, Mike. I was going to make that point myself, so I thank you for making it for me. And let me just give credit to the team that are either side of me and on the screen today as well for this, because as a Member, I'm just a very small part of just trying to pursue a policy position; it's these guys who have done all the leg-work on it. But, within the work that they've done in particular, there's a huge amount of work with the centres to get an understanding of the costs. On a survey we did, we had 51 providers come back to us with their usual costs, which is a pretty good sample, I would suggest, compared to the number of centres that there are in Wales. And we did make use of existing Welsh Government data and EVOLVE data sets as well. So, I'm fairly—I'm actually very comfortable with the range that has been presented to you. I'm not sure if any of my colleagues—I'm looking to Christian in particular—want to comment any further on that point. 

I don't think so, Sam. I think, with the costs that we got from the outdoor activity centre providers and we've used costs from coach hire companies and things like that, so I think from what we have, we have provided a range around the average. Therefore, looking at it, we're thinking that that is pretty much the range that is as accurate as we could portray it. 

I thought you were about to intervene then, sorry, Cadeirydd. You've talked about the data, et cetera. As you know, when demand goes up and supply stays static or fairly static, prices go up. Have you looked at that as a possibility, that the prices may increase because demand will increase? We've seen that with Help to Buy, which has inflated house prices.

It's a fair point and it is absolutely something that we considered in the development of the Bill. What's worth saying is that there is capacity within the sector at the moment, and they've recognised that. They recognise that there are things that the sector could do differently to increase capacity as well. So, I don't see that being a major financial implication within this. What we could do, dare I argue, with that increase in demand, increased competition, we could see a slight reduction in this as well, because there would be more certainty for the centres as to their levels of revenue in the future. But we expect also that centres will be more willing to invest in increasing their physical capacity as well, because again there would be the certainty of a certain number of children accessing those centres every single year. So, you could see much more investment from these centres to create the capacity, which would help meet the demand. 

Diolch. Welsh Government has said that it is risky to commit to a forecast costing, given that it doesn't have any indicative budgets past March 2025. To what extent do you agree with that?

I find it quite a strange point, I suppose, because that's suggesting that Welsh Government, perhaps, don't do any indicative thinking beyond 2025; I certainly hope that they do do that. I think I'd be criticised here today if I didn't have anything beyond just the next year in front of me. So, I think it's a slight curveball of a comment from the Welsh Government. I'm sure you'd be all over me if I didn't have something here beyond 2025, and rightfully so.


Digon teg. Diolch yn fawr. Peter.

Fair enough. Thank you very much. Peter. 

Thank you, Chairman. Sam, can I congratulate you and your staff for the work that you've put in to get this far? I know how much work it is, and I really do appreciate the quality and depth of the work you've done and the information you've provided us.

On to my questions, the RIA shows the cost range declining year on year. The Welsh Government question that; they ask whether you have factored in inflationary measures and things like that. I just wondered if you can outline why the costs are decreasing each year, and whether you have considered the impact of inflation on those costs.

I'll talk to two points there, very, very briefly, and then I think I'll ask Christian in particular to come in on this as well. On the first point around the declining costs, that's purely down to the pupil numbers decreasing over that time, so the number of learners that would be accessing this experience would be less. And then on the point around inflation, we've followed the Treasury Green Book guidance on this, which does not expect an inflationary consideration within the calculation, but perhaps Christian can talk to that point more than I can.

The Treasury Green Book provides guidance on appraisals of policy and programmes and it pretty much says we need to exclude inflation. So, what we do is, in the costs we estimate a real base price here through a GDP deflator, so that removes the general price of inflation. And this is what the Welsh Government does in its RIAs as well when it proposes Bills. So, we feel that that's in line with the standard approach for a value-for-money assessment.

Great. Thank you, Christian. That's really helpful, actually—the Green Book. I'd forgotten all about that, so thank you.

You've talked about the benefits of residential outdoor education, and I'm an absolute advocate for outdoor education, as a past leader myself, but the RIA doesn't quantify these. To what extent would you accept it is not possible to evidence any invest-to-save benefits of the Bill, and is there any additional information you would like to share with the committee in this regard?

Thanks, Peter. It's really tempting, isn't it, as a Member presenting a Bill—it was certainly tempting for me—to put down some fairly ambitious cost benefits around this. And if I could point out, Members, perhaps, that in the explanatory memorandum I do include a fairly large section on the social and economic benefits of residential outdoor education and outdoor education more broadly. If I can just take a minute, Chair, I'll just perhaps read out some of those.

In paragraph 214, there's a study by Social Value Business that reported that learning outside the classroom in a natural environment has an SROI—so, a social return on investment—of £4.32 for every £1 spent. Very recently, the Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum produced a report with Miller Research, which showed that a 10 per cent increase in participation in outdoor activity could lead to a £187 million benefit in physical and mental health, mental well-being and social capital. We had the Opening Doors to the Outdoors report, which showed that for every £1 invested—this was in mid and south Wales—we would see £7.12 value created. We had a report by Bangor University, looking at a 12-week programme, which showed that for every £1 invested there you're looking at around a £5 return on investment.

I won't go through absolutely every one of them, but I think the point is that there's a huge amount of evidence out there that shows that when you invest in residential outdoor experiences and outdoor education in particular, there is a social return on investment. I didn't want to put a specific number within here, because I'm proposing something that is quite specific, and the research is more general around outdoor education and residential outdoor education experiences. I think it would possibly have been misleading for me to copy and paste an exact number from one of these reports, or pieces of research, and suggest that this Bill will absolutely achieve that. What I will say is that it's clear, through the evidence, that there is a real return on investment. As I say, I haven't done it specifically, or haven't had the time to be able to do it specifically for this exact proposal within the Bill. 


Can I just come in on that point? The RIA notes that the figures don't apply to single events such as an outdoor education residential. The Minister did question that when we spoke to him, saying that the review and the report do not in fact include residential outdoor learning. So, what are your thoughts on that? You've listed quite a few studies there. Obviously, the Minister was questioning some of that evidence. How do you respond?

I think it's a fair point to say that just this one experience is not going to be the one and only thing that's going to switch young people on to the outdoors and—

Exactly, yes. It's part of a continuum, but it's a very, very important part of that. I don't want to guess, Chair, but it's often the thing—and I suspect it's true in your case—that you remember. It's the thing that kind of sits in the mind, that experience of having that residential outdoor experience. It creates memories. So, it's a very, very important part of a continuum of outdoor learning. The temptation, often, with outdoor learning—and I'm not degrading this—is outdoor learning just in the school yard, which is important, and that needs to happen. But this is part of a progression of outdoor learning. I've got Dr Dave Harvey with me, who's from my team as well and whose life is within this, so he might be able to explain that point a bit further. Would you mind?

Certainly. Dave, do you want to come in? Can we unmute? Thank you, Dave. 

Just unpicking the question, there are several layers to this. I think Sam's point about the progression is really important, and the residential is part of this continuum idea. And I think that's a critical point. On its own, as a two-night, as we've got in the RIA, or a four-night, it's unlikely, but it might do something significant. If it's part of a big thought-out picture that is part of this progression, then we've got something that has got a greater chance to have an impact, and a longer term impact. So, the thinking behind the whole programme—and by that, I mean across multi years of education—I think is really important. 

In terms of the original question about gathering information that says 'Well, it's therefore going to provide this much financial benefit', that's a prediction, which is very difficult, obviously, to guess, and SROIs have not been done to that degree. There has been one that was done in Scotland, but it never got anywhere because almost too much benefit was being attributed to it. So, I think we have to be careful that we don't overclaim, but it's very important that we put it into a picture that says, if it's part of this picture, it's going to build on that picture where we do the local outdoor learning programme, and, then, it starts to encourage people to go further, which is then going to have those attributable benefits later on. 

Can I just make one more comment on this, Chair, as well? A lot of this work is within the existing curriculum at the moment. There's recognition of the importance of learning outside of the classroom, and that's why the Welsh Government works closely with organisations like the Outdoor Partnership to help with this continuum of learning. Again, there's provision within the Bill for a residential outdoor education code to be written, and you'd expect that some of this would be within the code as well, this continuum of learning. 

So, it's a fair question, but it has certainly been thought through. I think, to Dave's point, I'm not sitting here trying to over-egg anything at all. I'm not attempting to do that. I just want to be very upfront about, yes, the cost, the potential benefits, but I didn't want to sit here and be rightfully torn to pieces for something that isn't completely accurate. 


Thanks, Sam. Thank you for giving those studies. I think that's really helpful. The benefits of experiences, for a young person's journey through life, are immeasurable. When they're left out, it's very difficult to measure the impact of them missing out on it, but you can measure the benefits of it. So, thank you for that.

I want to just explore then some specific costs identified in the RIA around the activity centres, transport and teacher costs, if I may. The largest cost estimated in the RIA is that associated with stays at the outdoor education centres, quite obviously. In the RIA you apply an average figure, based on the returns of the 51 centres you communicated with, to calculate your costs. Can you give an idea of the range of costs between those activity centres and what are the differences we might find between the facilities and the activities on offer?

I think the full range of costs that we received back from the centres were from just over £200 for that four-night stay, up to around £500 for that four-night stay. So, that's the full range. I'm going to ask perhaps Dave Harvey again to talk to some of the range of activities and the experiences that people may have within that range, and the information we received back from that survey.

Thank you, Sam. It's an interesting and complicated picture out there, because not all provision is the same. The prices will reflect operating models. They will reflect the facilities. They will reflect the philosophy of the centre and the activities that are offered. So, we could have what you might call higher end adventure at one end, which requires very specialised staff with high skill levels, qualifications et cetera. You may have activities that are less adventurous and can be done at higher ratios, so more children to one member of staff, which makes it cheaper. You may have buildings that are old country houses that have high maintenance costs, or relatively new builds that have very low maintenance costs. So, just on that sense, and whether or not an organisation is a local authority model, a charity, or a private company will affect how it views what it's charging. So, the charges will reflect a really wide range of different factors. The key thing, I think, is that the teachers who go to those centres choose to, effectively, buy a product that meets their needs, and so the range is really important, because it means that the children can end up with the thing that their teachers believe is best suited to what they need and require. Hopefully that gives you a sense of the breadth. 

Could I add to that? Thank you. Dave rightfully pointed out the ranges in there, and the range described in front of you is a range around the average. As any good statistician should and would do, you consider but perhaps remove the extremes of the range to give a fair position around the middle somewhere. But the point here is that on the face of the Bill, under section 1(3) of the Bill, at 71A(3)(g), and I'll read verbatim, it says the guidance

'must make provision in respect of the costs that it would be reasonable to incur in connection with residential outdoor education, including, but not limited to, the cost of board and lodging and transport'.

So that 'reasonable to incur', I think, is the important point, and I think a Government would be able to make a calculation similar to what I've done as to what might be a reasonable cost to incur for this provision.

Clearly, that would be important. If there's a set amount of money, there'll only be a certain provision that schools would be able to afford, so that might narrow their choices a little. Sam, can you set out the key assumptions around the number of pupils attending an outdoor activity centre and the length of stay, in particular how you have calculated the proportion of pupils attending either the two two-nights or the one four-night stay, and the transport arrangements associated with getting those pupils backwards and forwards to centres?


Thanks. So, again, going back to that point I made earlier on the headline figure, it does assume that there'd be 100 per cent take-up for this. And then, how it's split between the two and four nights, I'll ask Christian to explain that, if that's okay, Chair.

So, EVOLVE data that we got from last year enabled us to actually determine the number of pupils attending from one to nine nights, a duration of one to nine nights. So, we assumed, those pupils attending for one to three nights, their preference would probably be a two-night stay, and the four-plus nights would be a four-night stay. So, we've used those figures to calculate a proportion for the two nights and for the four nights, and we've applied that proportion then to the pupil forecasts from Welsh Government data, and also then to the average costs that the providers gave us from their survey. So, that's how we've apportioned that and the cost apportionment of pupils over those stays.

With transport, we did use the—. We calculated the average class size, and we did assume, for maximum costs, that there'd be one class per coach, and then we could use the average class size, then, to come up with a cost per head for each pupil. Then we used the costs from the coach-hire companies that we did primary research with, and then we could apply the cost per head, again, to the forecasted pupil numbers.

Sorry, Peter, if I may, just a point of clarification on the—. When we talk about the EVOLVE data, that's the system that local authorities use to record the number of learners who have all sorts of different activities outside the classroom. So, there might be a school trip to the local zoo, whatever it might be, but that's the system that is used by local authorities. That's that data—there's a vast amount of data there. Perhaps, if I may, Chair, just bring Dave back in, just to explain a bit, just to help you get a bit more assurance, as a committee, as to how we worked with EVOLVE to get the data as accurate as possible to help feed into this, to give you assurance that these numbers are as accurate as possible. Dave, would you mind doing that?

Yes. So, the EVOLVE system is used by all but one local authority in Wales, which, compared to the rest of the UK, is an almost—well, it is a—unique position, because it's almost total coverage. Every school that is in that system has to fill in a form that, basically, goes off for approval. That outlines all of the details of the visit that's proposed. That gets signed off by an outdoor education adviser, who reviews it on behalf of EVOLVE. EVOLVE is just a system; it's just a technical spreadsheet system, basically. However, all of that data is held centrally, and EVOLVE is run by an organisation called eduFOCUS, who have been extraordinarily helpful in providing all of that data at a meta level—big-level stuff—that we have then put together and analysed. So, between Christian, Michael and myself, we've looked at that and have managed to extricate the detail into the number of visits that are happening at different key stages, across different authorities, in terms of specific categories, so in terms of outdoor residentials, outdoor education residentials. So, that has given us a level of data and knowledge about what's going on that I think is—. Well, it's incredible, really, in terms of being able to gather that much detail. So, I'm personally very confident that we know as much as we could in terms of what's going on. We have gone for visits rather than individuals, because you can't get that granular with it, but to be able to actually extract the amount that we have done from visits per school, then I think we've done very well.

Thank you, Peter. Thank you. And just to clarify—and I think it's something that you said earlier—you've assumed 100 per cent take-up.


That's right. So, the calculation of the total cost is assumed at a 100 per cent take-up, because, as I said earlier, that would be the most extreme cost, as it were.

So, I think that that will probably bring us on to Rhianon's first question, about additional learning needs in that as well. But I'll let you take the question now, Rhianon.

Thank you very much, Chair. It's been very interesting, and a lot of preparation, discussion and work has gone into this—I can see that first-hand. In regard to the data around transport—and all schools are really suffering in terms of how much coaches are costing for hire for trips—what is your data per head, per pupil, that you've mentioned?

So, the transport costs are in paragraphs 296 and 297 within the explanatory memorandum. And the hire companies, they provided costs that range from £250 up to £280 for the three days. That was for, sorry, children with additional learning needs. But all the data is within the explanatory memorandum—. Sorry, paragraph 293 shows that the cost per journey is between £540 and £760 for those coaches. Clearly, it depends on the length of that journey. But, going back to the point of the Bill, having reasonable costs to be incurred within there, I think there's a fair argument that what we've assumed is that a journey shouldn't be more than—and this is, I think, a sanity issue, at times, for teachers as well—a journey probably shouldn't be more than a two-hour trip away. And, actually, if I remember rightly, that's the number we've used.

Can I just—? Rhianon, would you mind if I asked Christian just to check anything I've said there, that I might have missed?

That's fine, Sam. To support the data, we did do a survey with schools, and we did ask them about transport costs. Their—pretty much—response was within the limits of our cost range per head. So, we were confident from the school data that it was—

That's good, great. Okay. Thank you very much. Before I go into my questions, I'm just going to ask a really basic one—and the Chair may tell me off on this one. You've talked about the range of centres across Wales at this current moment in time, and, obviously, we all know where organisations are in terms of post pandemic and the encouragement needed around that. How do you, in a sense, guarantee that there's a consistency of basic offer for the pupil that will be attending, or could be attending, if this were to be the case? Or is it your view that it doesn't matter about the consistency of the offer, it's just the opportunity?

I wouldn't say it doesn't matter, but I would come back to the Curriculum for Wales, which goes back to that teachers and headteachers will want to deliver what they see as being best for their learners. But let's not forget also that a lot of these trips already happen today; thousands of children every year have these experiences, so, that consistency of offer, it could be argued right now around whether children are getting that consistency of offer today.

Yes, but this is a specialist programme, moving forward, isn't it? So, it would be a very different ball game to the voluntary decision by the head to go ahead with their ordinary programme of events. Thank you, Sam. I'm going to move on to my questions, before I stray into the policy. So, your costs account for a split between primary and secondary pupils, and the requirements associated around additional learning needs are what I want to actually focus on with this question. So, I think, within the RIA, you've covered a range of potential requirements that students may have, but, obviously, if we're talking about a 100 per cent take-up, every pupil will have an equitable right to attend a centre, and that would have to be fit for purpose for that individual pupil, whatever their special educational/additional learning needs would be. How would you describe to me the robustness, then, of your consideration of equipment, of necessary adaptations, et cetera, et cetera, that would be needed for all pupils to have equal access to this?

So, it's been a really, really important part of the consideration, but can I just answer that a bit more fully in just a moment? I just want to go back to the point you made about the consistency of quality and assurance of the centres, because let's be clear that, currently, schools have to have that assurance about the quality of the centres already. If I just may very briefly, Chair, Dave Harvey will be able to explain this better than I can, but it is part of the consideration when that booking takes place now. Dave, could you just briefly point to the process by which schools would get that guarantee of that, of the—? I'm not sure it's the licence process—I'm sorry, I get the wording wrong—but I think you know what I mean.


Sorry to interrupt. I'm not talking about health and safety and the fitness of purpose; I'm actually talking about the consistency of a pan-Wales offer of outdoor education—a sort of curriculum that would be the basics to be offered. That's the sort of question that I was getting at. I'll come to the other question later. 

—to speak to the point I made a moment ago first? 

Sorry, yes. I'm just trying to work out which question was going on there. So, in terms of the quality across the board, the way that the Bill is structured is that it leaves the choice with the school to do what is appropriate. Now, the safety side of things provides that—. Rhianon, I know you were not talking about that, but those systems are in place. So, if people are providing the activities, the activities can be expected to be of a certain standard in terms of safety provision.

The quality side of things in terms of educational content, then, that's the question—. I know what you're getting at. That side of things is about—. That would be the teachers' job, to be able to make a decision about what level of educational input they wanted within that. There's a broad range across that. There are different ways and different quality badges that look at the educational content as well. So, the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality badge, for example, is endorsed by the Welsh Government, and that actually has an educational component to it; it's not just safety. That's the educational component. So, there are systems in place already that give schools assurance of that level, that basic level. Now, whether or not all centres have that, that is another matter, because then the Outdoor Education Advisers' Panel says, if you haven't got that, then you need to go through this particular process. So, there are systems in place already that could be developed further. 

Okay. Thank you. That's interesting. The RIA talks about teaching staff attending visits, and you're very well aware, I'm sure, Dave and everybody in the room, in terms of the challenges on teaching time at the moment and workforce capacity issues. I'm concerned in regard to what I feel is an underestimation of the amount of teaching time, that this could, as an unintended impact, have a knock-on effect on schools, on schools' management, schools' finances, schools' administration. So, how have you prepared your Bill to explore unintended consequences for schools, and I'm talking about the releasing of teachers, teachers' time to attend this, and the management time to be able to access this? Have you, for instance, a pot within your Bill for teaching time for those who will be attending and managing these visits? There's a lot of emphasis here on teachers choosing and local choice, the head having that control, obviously. And that's a worry for me. How would you reassure me? 

Thank you, Rhianon, and absolutely please be assured that it's something that we've thought through long and hard. If I may, perhaps if just I take a moment here, if I may just cover the question earlier about the provision for ALN and pupils with severe learning difficulties, that is explored within the explanatory memorandum, and the specific costs to ensure that those learners have the appropriate support in place is outlined in the explanatory memorandum itself. You'd be more than welcome to, as a committee, review that. I'd suggest that you look from paragraphs, perhaps—. I'm going to say 279 through to 286, but there is much more detail within there. And just on that point, before I move on to the teacher point, it's a really important part of the Bill, because far too many children today, and particularly those with more acute levels of learning difficulties, haven't been offered these experiences, let alone taking them up, and I think it's a crying shame, quite frankly. This Bill would guarantee that every child, no matter the level of additional learning needs or severity of learning difficulty, will be offered this experience. Now, it may not always be appropriate, and those children or the parents may not want to take up that experience, but the opportunity being there and having something that works for them I think is a really, really important part of an inclusive education system that we'd all want to see.


That I totally, fundamentally agree with you on, but my question really is, in terms of your costings, that there would be centres available for those students. And in terms of the wider wraparound cost of that, is that fully within the Bill? That's my question to you.

Because we would not want to do what you've just said, which is to exclude, and as this is for everyone, which is a hugely laudable aim, which I, absolutely, on a principle level, would love to support, the practicality is that not every centre is set up for pupils who have complex needs and additional needs.

So, just to be really clear, that calculation is in there for those learners, because the additional costs to ensure they have the appropriate support, and some very specialist centres, actually, for children with quite severe learning difficulties, understandably, need to charge more to ensure that that support is appropriate—that calculation is within the RIA. In addition to that, there are additional staffing costs to accompany pupils with severe additional learning needs as well. It's also included within the calculation here. So, I'm very confident that those calculations are robust, that all children, no matter the level of need—the calculations to support them appropriately are included within this.

Now, just on the teacher point you mentioned earlier, also within the RIA are teacher and staff costs for covering teachers that aren't back at school when they're out with the learners on the trip. This is different, slightly, between primary and secondary schools, because of the very nature of how primary school classes exist. Usually, or often, a teacher of that class would go with the class, alongside, perhaps, support staff as well. But in secondary school there's a different picture, of course, because they're not following that same class around usually. That has been considered and it has been included from paragraph 305, and, I'm going to say, quite a long way into that—a huge number of paragraphs. I can't get right to the end of this in this short time. There it is, paragraph 337. So, you can understand a lot of consideration has been put into that teacher cost to ensure that, back at the ranch—

Sorry to interrupt you, but we don't have much time, and I'm trying to get to the nitty-gritty of this. How would you then reassure—?

Rhianon, we've gone over a little bit of time, but as long as everybody is okay, I'm happy to keep it to its natural conclusion. As long as it doesn't go on for another three hours, then we'll be fine, I'm sure.

Fine. Thank you, Chair, and that's appreciated, because I think this is very, very important. I think, in terms of how you would reassure me and perhaps other members of this committee that those costings are robust, because stakeholders have noted that they don't think that those figures are accurate, and I believe the Minister suggests that changing teachers' pay and conditions to be able to, not on a voluntary basis, accompany students to this considerable and worthwhile offer for pupils, is going to have that effect and that impact—. So, in terms of the change in teachers' pay and conditions to be able to do what you want, which I think is highly laudable, what would you say to reassure me in terms of your data and your research?

I think if the Minister thinks he needs to seek to change the terms and conditions, that's a matter for him to deal with. Let's not forget again that, currently, the vast majority of teachers understand the importance of this and see it as part of the support of education they're providing for their learners. Teachers do all sorts of activities outside of a strict nine-till-three contract, which ensures that—


It's a statutory requirement, it's not a voluntary requirement, and that's what I'm trying to unpick.

Yes, and teachers do all sorts of activities and ensure that the statutory provision of education takes place, and they don't—and are not able to, actually—claim overtime for that work, because they recognise the importance of it. And the evidence—and teachers recognise this—has shown that the connection that teachers have with their learners by undertaking these visits with them, and the way that they can support them in the classroom afterwards—teachers recognise that this is a very, very important and worthwhile time for them to be with their learners. Just to give you the assurance on the numbers for the teacher cover costs—that is very clearly outlined within the RIA. But I'm not sure, if, Christian, you want to point to any particular parts with this, on the work and the calculations you undertook to come to the position that we came to.

I think that, with the ALN pupils and teacher cover costs there, we have looked at the schools survey and we have come up with, for every three pupils with ALN attending a residential visit, it would require two teachers to go with them. So, that's how we've calculated, based on the ratio of teachers to ALN pupils. So, that would give us the staff cover for special schools, obviously, when the ALN pupils actually attend.

And in regard, then, to the pay and conditions point, you don't feel that that's relevant to this Bill?

It's not something that I've explored within this. If the Minister thinks that that's necessary, then I guess that's a point for him to consider. But just on the Bill itself, though, where this is covered off, again, it says in point (3)(h) that, in the guidance, the Minister

'may make provision in respect of schools’ staff costs in respect of residential outdoor education'.

So, it's not just within the explanatory memorandum, it's on the face of the Bill as well, that it's something that should be included.

Okay. It's recognised. Thank you for that. And finally, my final question is in regard to the tracking of pupil participation within the residential outdoor sector—there are associated costs, which are considered negligible and are not included in the RIA. However, the Minister around that noted the potential administrative burden, like I stated earlier, not just in terms of staff cover when they are with the pupils, but in terms of the actual administrative side. So, I want a comment in regard to how you built that into the Bill. And then a final important question, if I may: we've touched upon the consistency of the extra-curricular offer, which should be a basic for all pupils who would access any programme such as this, for whatever purpose. How are you going to ensure that there is an educational inspection, Estyn involvement, around this? Because as we all know, outdoor education is monitored, it is qualitative, but it also has to be absolutely on the radar of Estyn as well. How would you deal with that?

So, if I answer perhaps the second question first, if I may, around the role of Estyn within this. Estyn were asked to give evidence to the Children, Young People and Education Committee—it's quite a long title, isn't it—on my Bill, just a few weeks ago, and they were asked exactly the same question. They answered it by saying that they didn't have any concerns with the implications of this Bill on their inspection framework. But you're right to point out that we should have an assurance that this is working well, and that's the role of school governing bodies, ultimately, working with local authorities. So, I expect that, if a local authority, or even Estyn themselves, wanted a thematic review, they could instigate that, to have that assurance—

But—[Inaudible.]—cost of that, isn't it, and Estyn would have a cost to inspect around centres. So, is there an in-build of that cost within this Bill?

No, because, as Estyn said themselves, they don't expect it to be something for them to have to do. But if a Minister at any point, or somebody, wanted to do that, it's their prerogative. I can't predict what a Minister will want to ask for as a thematic review—they can ask for a thematic review on anything they wanted to. So, I think Estyn's response is the one to listen to because they're the experts in this area. 

In terms of the tracking of, I guess, the number of pupils taking up this offer, we spoke to the Welsh Local Government Association on this, and Dave outlined earlier the role of EVOLVE system that 21 of the 22 local authorities use currently to track huge amounts of data, and they assured us it would just be the inclusion of one additional field within a system, and they believe, as described in the EM, the cost of that is negligible. 


Okay, I'm thinking more about arranging it, but that's fine. Thank you very much, very full answers. Thank you, Chair. 

Diolch, Rhianon, and that brings us to the end, nearly. I've just got one question, and it might stray into policy rather than—. But that is my prerogative—I'm Chair of this committee. Does this Bill set a precedent for doing education by Bill? So, would there be then—? You know, if this Bill passed, would there then be a music Bill around orchestras and choirs, something that's very close to my heart, more so than, possibly, outdoor education just because of my interests? Is there a risk involved in doing it like this, and would it not be a better place to put it within the education curriculum, rather than legislating for it separately?

I think it's a fair question. Let's not forget the Bill itself is putting it into the curriculum, so it's not seeking to have a stand-alone thing, as it were. The way the Bill has been framed is to put it into the curriculum, but I guess the criticism could be that that, as you say, happens to all sorts of areas of interest and concern, I suppose. I guess that is a risk, but then the question mark is, as a Member of the Senedd, as an ordinary Member of the Senedd, my opportunity to bring forward a Member's Bill is once in a blue moon. The remit within which I'm allowed to work within is fairly restricted, and it's how we can get these guarantees into the Curriculum for Wales. I suspect any Government doesn't want to set up a curriculum and just leave it to run forever and a day. There are times and identified need to include things within that curriculum, and as an ordinary Member of the Senedd, this is the best way that I can do that, and it does provide some certainty and guarantee. 

So, I accept the risk that you've shared, Chair, but I think this is such an important part of a young person's experience and education that I think it's worthy of being inserted into the curriculum in this way. 

Okay, thank you very much, and thanks for indulging me with that last question. Thank you very much for your time this morning. It's been great, and apologies for going over a little bit but I think it was well worth it to get those answers on the record. As I mentioned before, there will be a transcript for you to look through just to check for accuracy, and thank you and your team for coming and for answering our questions this morning. 

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting


bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).


that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Felly, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42, dwi'n cynnig bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yma. A ydy pawb yn gytûn? Dwi'n gweld ein bod, felly wnawn ni fynd yn breifat. Diolch yn fawr.

Therefore, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, I propose that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting. Are Members content? I see that they are, therefore we'll go into private session. Thank you very much. 

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:44.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:44.