National Trust volunteers protest charity’s decision to axe education provision
PUBLISHED: 13:23 28 August 2020 | UPDATED: 14:24 28 August 2020
Passers-by cheered and drivers honked their horns in support of National Trust learning volunteers who gathered to protest the charity’s “short-sighted” decision to axe its in-house education provision.
Placard-wielding protestors took up position outside Sheringham Park on Friday after the National Trust revealed it was making £100 million of cuts aimed at clawing back the estimated £200 million of revenue lost during the coronavirus crisis.
The 20-strong group, who help run events and activities have launched a petition calling for the trust to reverse its decision to make learning officers redundant across its properties and focus on self-led or outsourced education provision.
Christine Bell, who has been a learning volunteer since 2014, said: “I think the National Trust is being incredibly short-sighted, we bring so much value and cater for children for children from all over the country, many of whom are from deprived areas and might not otherwise have the opportunity to find out about wildlife and nature in a setting like Sheringham Park.”
A 45-day consultation on £100m of annual savings was launched at the end of July, including a possible 1,200 redundancies.
But, while Sheringham Park learning volunteers say they appreciate the trust has suffered financially during the pandemic, they insist that with only one paid member of staff on their team, the proposed changes make little financial sense and make a mockery of the trust’s new advertising slogan of “Everyone Needs Nature”.
Forest School teaching assistant Belinda Sayer, who became a learning team member after attending the park’s parent and toddler group, Acorns, with her two sons, said: “Sheringham Park caters for nearly 6,000 school children every year and if teams like ours are axed, then a lot of children will miss out.”
The group last week launched an online petition, which has already attracted more than 350 signatures.
A National Trust spokesperson said the trust had been hit hard by the effects of the pandemic and it needed to reduce its annual spend, and the size of its workforce.
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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