Today is the closing date for expressions of interest in a £10m DEFRA scheme to
"enable children in England, particularly those from disadvantaged areas, to be close to nature in and out of school in order to support their health and wellbeing."
Defra and Natural England intend to launch three projects starting in 2018 and ending by spring 2023, to deliver actions committed to in the 25 Year Environment Plan:
1. A Nature Friendly Schools Project, which aims to help schools and places of alternative provision, such as Pupil Referral Units, to create nature friendly grounds, increase the use of those grounds by pupils to improve their health and wellbeing, and to establish a regular and progressive programme of visits for pupils to experience the natural environment near and far from their school or education centre. The ambition for this project is that it should support in the region of 400-500 schools, AP institutions or education centres from the most disadvantaged areas of England.
2. A project to support the sustainable expansion of school outreach activities delivered by community forests.
3. A project to support a national expansion of care farming by 2023, increasing the number of places to 1.3m per year for children and adults in England. Together these projects form a substantial national demonstration programme. As such, the programme will be subject to robust, independent evaluation, and require high quality monitoring and reporting.
Excellent news, do you think? Well, maybe – but read this again:
The purpose of the scheme is to enable children in England, particularly those from disadvantaged areas, to be close to nature in and out of school in order to support their health and wellbeing.
Not so that they might learn something about, say, how the biosphere supports human health and well-being; or about the finer points of ecology; or about the effects of climate change on biodiversity; or about the malign effects of intensive farming on wildlife populations; or about practical monitoring and research skills applicable to the natural world; or about badgers, cows and TB and the futility of culling; or about the pros and cons of GMO technology; or the (dis)benefits of rewilding, ... . No. just so that they will be more healthy and feel better.
How very postmodern. So much for the environment; so much for environmental education ...