Outdoor Education and Adventure Centres

Outdoor Education and Adventure Centres

As noted under many of the sports, OECs and Adventure Centres are a good way to start off in an adventure sport. Even better, they offer an opportunity with taster weekends and weeks to try out several sports before choosing what suits you best. At these Centres you will be taught by instructors qualified by the relevant national body and you will be provided with all the specialist clothing and equipment you need. They are mostly residential but also run non-residential and day courses. Some will offer you the choice of hostel or hotel accomodation!

The nine Outdoor Education Centres in the Republic(*), mostly near west and south coasts are managed by the relevant County Vocational Education Committees. Their primary purpose is to provide outdoor education for schools. However they also provide, in the school holidays open courses and adventure holidays for both adults and children. As well as adventure sports they offer environmental programmes. There are full details of most of their programmes on the website. In Northern Ireland there are similar Centres which are managed by the Education and Library Boards.

Tiglin, the National Adventure Centre(*) in Wicklow specialises in Mountaineering of all kinds, Canoeing and Orienteering - it is actually owned by the national bodies involved. It is particularly noted for leadership training. The equivalent in Northern Ireland is the Tollymore Mountan Centre in the Mournes.

There are many commercial Adventure Centres offering one or more sports at basic and advanced levels, and since they are spread over the whole country there should be no difficulty in finding one near you. But of course they are dependent on their local facilities - it is no good asking a Centre in Wicklow to give you a course in caving! Most centres offer canoeing, hill-walking and a couple of other activities.

Unfortunately there is no current list of Centres in the Republic. In 1989, in view of the importance of safety in Centres, the Association for Adventure Sports (AFAS) set up a voluntary Centre Standards Board (CSB) that monitored and approved Centres. Prospective participants could check that the Centre they proposed attending was suitable. Following a fatal canoeing accident in 1995, the Department of the Marine decided to set up a Statutory Board (AASA) to replace the CSB. The Act passed the Dail in 1998, and the Board was supposed to be in place by 2001, so funding for the CSB ceased in 2000. However the AASA has not yet been been set up, and there has been no monitoring or approval of Centres since 2000. The list for 2000 is on a website(*). (This does not apply to Sailing or Scuba, which have their own approval schemes).

The lack of a current list is serious. Although almost all the Centres have high standards of ethics, staffing and equipment, you are about to undertake a risk activity, and there is always the possibility that a Centre is below standard. Also there have been many changes in the last three years. The current situation is a serious example of Government inaction in a matter that could have easily been implemented. A personal visit to a Centre, especially if you are parents sending your children, will generally re-assure you (or not!) as to the quality of the Centre. The standards for each sport can be found on the CSB/AASA website.


CSB/AASA: www.adventuresports.ie/approval-scheme
Outdoor Education Centres: www.oec.ie
Approved List 2000: www.adventuresports.ie/providers/all.html
Tiglin Adventure Centre: www.tiglin.com

Courtesy of Joss Lynam collection

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