Is there a 25 year plan for environmental education?

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

The government has published its 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment.  Is it, I wondered, too much to hope that this is also a 25 year plan for environmental education?  As a start to thinking about this question, here's a list of how often education-related ideas are mentioned in the document:

Foreword from the Prime Minister – None

Foreword from the Secretary of State – None

Executive summary – None

Introduction: Our new approach to managing the environment

Page 16 – The poorer you are, the more likely it is that your house, and your children’s school and playground are close to highly-polluted roads, and the less likely you are to enjoy ready access to green spaces.  At present, children from minority ethnic backgrounds and lower income homes are the least likely to visit our countryside. This should change, so that everyone has the chance to benefit from getting close to nature and appreciating all it has to offer. In turn, they will want to protect and enhance the world around them.

Page 17 – Over the next 25 years we must safeguard the environment for this generation and many more to come. We plant trees knowing that it will not be us, but our children and grandchildren, who get to enjoy their shade. In the same way, we should take a long view of how our stewardship today can lead to a healthier and culturally richer planet tomorrow.

Chapter 1: Using and managing land sustainably – None

Chapter 2: Recovering nature and enhancing the beauty of landscapes

Page 66 – Actions we will take include ... Working with National Park Authorities to continue to deliver the 8-Point Plan for National Parks 2016-2020. National Park Authorities have already met the target to engage directly with over 60,000 young people a year in schools’ visits, and will double this figure.

Chapter 3: Connecting people with the environment to improve health and wellbeing

Page 71 – We will ... Encourage children to be close to nature, in and out of school, with particular focus on disadvantaged areas.  Make 2019 a year of action for the environment, working with Step Up To Serve and other partners to help children and young people from all backgrounds to engage with nature and improve the environment.

A number of outdoor sports and leisure organisations, green space managers, environmental organisations and schools encourage people to participate in activities in green spaces.  The forest school approach encourages children to explore nature and have a relationship with the outdoors. The new science and geography curriculum and qualifications encourage pupils to undertake fieldwork as part of their course of study.

Page 72 Farms in both rural and urban locations host groups of school children and share their knowledge about the environment and where food comes from. ... The number of people who spend little or no time in natural spaces is too high.  Recent data from the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment survey tells us that some 12% of children do not visit the natural environment each year. ... In healthcare and school settings, and despite some excellent examples of pioneering practice, the possible benefits of contact with nature to promote good mental health or support early interventions for mental health problems are often overlooked.  Care farms are working farms that provide health, social or educational care services for individuals from one or a range of vulnerable groups.

Page 73 – Through existing commitments made in Sporting Future – a New Strategy for an Active Nation, and in line with our ambition to reduce childhood obesity, the Government supports programmes that encourage physical activity, including in outdoor settings. ... We will scope out how we could connect people more systematically with green space to improve mental health, using the natural environment as a resource for preventative and therapeutic purposes.  This will be in line with the Prevention Concordat for Better Mental Health and support the Government’s new commitments on children’s mental health.

Page 74 – We will launch a three-year ‘Natural Environment for Health and Wellbeing’ programme, focused on supporting local authorities, health organisations, health professionals, teachers and planners in promoting the natural environment as a pathway to good health and wellbeing.  Mental health problems and early interventions will be an initial area of interest, however the programme will be charged with considering other health issues, such as obesity, where children and adults would benefit from better access to nature.

Page 75 – Encouraging children to be close to nature, in and out of school.  Playing and learning outside is a fundamental part of childhood, and helps children grow up healthy.  Playing and learning outside is a fundamental part of childhood, and helps children grow up healthy. Some children are lucky enough to have a family garden; others will not and it is important that we find other ways to give them better access to the great outdoors. We know that regular contact with green spaces, such as the local park, lake, or playground, can have a beneficial impact on children’s physical and mental health.  The initiatives we outline below are designed to encourage and support outdoor activities, particularly where a child has no access to a family garden. Government will make available £10m of funding to support these initiatives.

Helping primary schools create nature-friendly grounds.  We will launch a Nature Friendly Schools Programme to help more communities create the kind of school grounds that support learning about the natural world and also keep children happy and healthy.  The government will provide support for schools in our most disadvantaged areas that wish to create nature friendly grounds and to design and run activities that support pupil’s health and wellbeing through contact with nature.  Actions we will take include developing a Nature Friendly Schools programme for schools in our most disadvantaged areas with input from stakeholders that can be opened to schools from autumn 2018.

Page 76 – Supporting more pupil contact with local natural spaces.  We want to make it easier for schools and Pupil Referral Units to take pupils on trips to natural spaces on a regular basis where they can combine learning with feeling healthier and happier. This might involve class visits to a city farm, a local nature reserve, woodland or National Park.  In cases of individual need, a pupil might go to a care farm on a bespoke itinerary.

Actions we will take include: Developing a programme to support schools and Pupil Referral Units in our most disadvantaged areas in establishing progressive programmes of nature contact for their pupils, which can be opened to schools from autumn 2019; Supporting the expansion of school outreach activities delivered by community forests. Supporting a national expansion of care farming by 2022, trebling the number of places to 1.3m per year for children and adults in England.

Page 79 – [the] award winning ‘Nature4Health’ programme encourages local communities at risk of developing health problems such as diabetes, obesity or depression, to get out into the Forest through conservation activities, mindful walking and forest schools, significantly improving their physical and mental health.

Page 80 – Our goal is to see more people from all backgrounds involved in projects to improve the natural world. We will make 2019 a year of action for the environment, putting children and young people at its heart. This year of green action will provide a focal-point for organisations that run environmental projects, and will encourage wider participation.

Evidence suggests that while many people are already keen to get out there and help the environment, we should aim for many more to do so.  Among younger people alone, and across all kinds of social action, the government-funded National Youth Social Action survey of 2016, found that in a group of 10-20 year olds, 42% of young people participated in meaningful social action, whilst another 42% took no part in social action.

Helping children and young people from all backgrounds to engage with nature and improve the environment.  Working with Step Up to Serve, #iwill campaign partners, and other youth and environmental partners, we will develop an environment theme for the #iwill campaign in 2019 ... .

Page 81 – We will work with partners from the environmental and youth sectors to promote environmental opportunities that attract young people from all backgrounds.  As part of this, we will work with the National Citizen Service (NCS) Trust, to enable more participants to have contact with and improve natural environments both during the NCS experience and afterwards.  We will engage young people in the design of this programme. Legacy partnerships will sustain opportunities for young people to engage with the environment into the future.

Actions we will take include: [i] In partnership with Step Up to Serve, supporting the 2019 #iwill environment-themed year, with design input from young people; [ii] Evaluating progress in increasing young people’s environmental social action, including #iwill campaign activity in 2019, and sharing lessons to sustain good practice; At the same time, exploring with youth sector partners the potential for piloting a natural environment programme with youth groups that encourages use of natural environments through social action.  This would aim to reach more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Page 82 – Supporting the 2019 year of green action.  Government will build on the 70th anniversary of National Parks and the centenary of the Forestry Commission and #iwill campaign activities in 2019 to encourage adults and children to take positive steps to help the natural environment.  We will focus on the simple things that people can do, and how these also support good health.

A series of public engagement activities for 2019 will link to initiatives on waste reduction, cleaner air or other aspects of pro-environmental behaviour. We will look to get the business community and voluntary sectors involved in these activities, and urge them, with the education sector, to develop their own initiatives throughout the year to engage communities and raise awareness.

Chapter 4: Increasing resource efficiency and reducing pollution and waste

Page 91 – The Litter Strategy for England sets out our aim to clean up the country and cut both litter and littering behaviours by means of better education, enforcement and ‘binfrastructure’ (the design, number and location of public litter bins and so on).  We will deliver a new national anti-litter campaign and work on developing a culture that teaches young people not to litter.

Page 94 – ... waste fires can cause significant disruption to roads, railways and schools, making lives a misery.

Chapter 5: Securing clean, healthy, productive and biologically diverse seas and oceans – None

Chapter 6: Protecting and improving our global environment

Page 113 – We are also committed to protected cultural and natural heritage around the world. The UK’s heritage organisations deliver education, training, consultancy, conservation and renovation programmes to many parts of the globe.  Many heritage professionals and practitioners from other countries come to the UK each year to develop their skills, learn about heritage protection and management in the UK, and benefit from the knowledge of our heritage sector.

Putting the Plan into practice

Page 147 – The RSPB joined forces with Barratt Developments to set a new benchmark for nature friendly housing developments – the first national agreement of its kind in the UK.  At Kingsbrook, some 2,450 new homes, new schools and community facilities have been designed in a way that puts nature at the heart of proposals. ...  Aylesbury Vale District Council has been instrumental in promoting this approach from the start and are now looking to adopt these principles in planning their garden town.  This is good for people and business as well as wildlife.  Barratt expects the value and saleability of its homes to be improved by the quality of greenspace and there is evidence that local businesses can also be boosted by a green setting.  For the community, greenspace can improve children’s educational prospects and their connection to nature, and contribute to improved mental and physical health and wellbeing.  The Kingsbrook project will be carried out over about a decade with a comprehensive monitoring programme, developed and overseen by RSPB scientists.

Page 149 – Business in the Community works to create healthy communities with successful business at their heart.  As well as their Landscape Enterprise Network initiative referenced above, BITC’s Water Resilient Cities programme has been working with schools and NHS sites in Manchester to explore an innovative way of financing the retrofitting of sustainable drainage features (SuDS – e.g. green roofs and rain gardens).  A scoping study has identified benefits from a strategic roll out of SuDS in public estates across Greater Manchester, having investigated the time taken to pay back the upfront capital costs through savings made from reduced surface water charges in the schools’ water bills.  The SuDS measures would bring benefits to the schools and wider communities in the form of air and water quality, flood risk reduction, education, health, carbon sequestration, urban cooling and biodiversity.  More information is available on the BITC website.

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  • I had to smile as I read through this blog post. The rhetoric is so typically political. Lots of vision statements with no action items, and especially no clear objectives that can be measured. Of course that will come in a subsequent document some 50 volumes longer - or will it? Like world Peace - we just stop killing and play football in no-mans-land.