I blogged a couple of weeks ago about the happy occasion of the 6 millionth tree of the Jubilee Woods project being planted at Ashburnham Primary School in London. This was done by HRH Princess Anne with the Prime Minister in attendance.
One of the key messages we wanted to get across that memorable day, was the links between environmental education, a sense of well-being and the development of responsible future citizens with a strong sense of stewardship for the natural world. In fact, the enormous and obvious enthusiasm of the children for planting and making the most of their school grounds spoke for itself that day.
But its worth noting that there is plenty of evidence to back those links up.
For example, OFSTED’s 2008 study Learning outside the classroom: How far should you go? evaluated the impact of learning outside the classroom in 27 schools and colleges across England. This demonstrated that learning outside the classroom ‘contributed significantly to raising standards and improving pupils’ personal, social and emotional development‘. Of great relevance to the current consultation on the National Curriculum, it concluded: ‘Learning outside the classroom was most successful when it was an integral element of long-term curriculum planning and closely linked to classroom activities’.
As our previous blogs in this series have pointed out, we fear that the nurturing of that passion for the natural world and access to its well-being benefits from an early age is jeopardised by proposed changes to the National Curriculum. All the more ironic really, when you consider that one for the driving aspirations for the new curriculum is ‘the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society’ and to ‘prepare pupils… for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.’
We believe that children should learn about the environment in their early, formative years. We also believe it is important that they learn to think critically about the quality of that environment and how it can be improved. Current proposals rightly emphasise making use of school grounds but that presupposes that those grounds possess nature interest or potential in the first place. This is very clearly not the case for all children and it underlines the importance of safeguarding school trips – both in terms of instilling a sense of wonder about the natural world and in encouraging thinking about the differing quality of people’s everyday environments.
It’s worth recalling too, that when the Government consulted last year on its so called ‘happiness index‘ one of the strongest themes to emerge was the quality of, and access to, the local environment. It is for all these reasons, that we have launched a campaign to secure these vital experiences for children within the curriculum and urge you to take part.
As Rachel Carson put it: “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
James Cooper, Head of Government Affairs
Please have your say in the consultation on changes to the curriculum: email the Department for Education before April 16th.
You can read our other posts in this topic here – we’d love to know your views.