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Norfolk volunteers take on National Trust over cuts

PUBLISHED: 11:02 18 August 2020 | UPDATED: 11:43 18 August 2020

Sheringham Park learning officer Rob Coleman, whose job at Sheringham Park is under threat.
Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Sheringham Park learning officer Rob Coleman, whose job at Sheringham Park is under threat. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

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National Trust volunteers at a historic Norfolk beauty spot are protesting about the charity’s “tragic” decision to axe in-house learning and education provision.

Youngsters having fun at one of the many events organised by Sheringham Park's learning and education teaml. Picture: KAREN BETHELLYoungsters having fun at one of the many events organised by Sheringham Park's learning and education teaml. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

The trust is planning to outsource the work to claw back some of the £200m of income lost across its sites during the coronavirus crisis.

The 20-strong group of Sheringham Park volunteers help run events and activities ranging from bug hunts to family survival days.

They have launched a petition calling for the trust to reverse its decision to make learning officers redundant and instead focus on self-led or outsourced education provision.

A 45-day consultation on £100m of annual savings was launched at the end of July, including a possible 1,200 redundancies.

Learning and education provision at Sheringham Park, which is under threat due to National Trust cost cutting measures Picture: KAREN BETHELLLearning and education provision at Sheringham Park, which is under threat due to National Trust cost cutting measures Picture: KAREN BETHELL

The volunteers said that with only one paid member of staff on their team, the proposed changes made little financial sense.

Sally Chandler, an education volunteer at the park since 2010, said taking away provision would impact thousands of youngsters.

“Equality and inclusion are key words here and that is something I thought the National Trust stood for,” she said. “Children use the trust’s facilities all year round nationwide and these are the most important visitors of all.

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“There are many extremely talented people out there who have been working so hard for years to open the eyes of the population of this county to the wonders of the natural world and if they are let go, then the fantastic knowledge and enthusiasm they bring with them will be lost to the National Trust for ever and the trust, on the other hand, will be left with a gaping void in their provision to their members and the visiting public.”

The petition has so far attracted more than 350 signatures.

Sheringham Primary School Forest School teaching assistant Belinda Sayer, who became a learning team member after attending the park’s parent and toddler group, Acorns, with her son Ben, now 11, said: “It has been widely reported of the benefits of nature on our mental health and well-being and access to this, and outdoor learning opportunities, is even more crucial at the current time.”

A National Trust spokesperson said the trust had been hit hard by the effects of the pandemic and needed to reduce its annual spend, and the size of its workforce.

Pond dipping at Sheringham Park.
Photo: KAREN BETHELLPond dipping at Sheringham Park. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

She added: “All proposals are subject to a consultation process and we are doing all we can to support those who may be affected by the proposed changes.

“We remain committed to broadening access to all of our places and to offering learning opportunities for all visitors.”


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