Opinion Former Article

Countryside Alliance: Give children the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom

The Countryside Alliance Foundation has published a new report Outdoor education - the countryside as a classroom showing unprecedented demand for learning outside the classroom as research (1) shows that 92 per cent of parents* think their children should have more opportunities to get into the countryside to learn about farming and nature.

The report highlights the strong desire for outdoor learning among teachers and children, but highlights the continuing concerns about health and safety which can limit children's access to the countryside. Three quarters of teachers say that health and safety is the main barrier to school visits, but only 364 legal claims were made between 1998 and 2008 for injuries sustained by children, with under half resulting in payouts. On average only £293 of compensation was paid out each year by local authorities.

Robert Gray, Director of The Countryside Alliance Foundation, said: "This report makes a convincing case for outdoor education to be included in the National Curriculum. It shows that teachers and children all want more access to the countryside through school and that well managed outdoor learning poses virtually no risk."

The report has been welcomed by expert organisations, including the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, Natural England and The Field Studies Council.

Helen Phillips, Chief Executive of Natural England said: "This report is a helpful contribution to an important debate. Our research shows that contact with nature has halved in a generation, and that the overwhelming majority of children now want more opportunities to play outdoors. The natural environment is there to be explored by children, it is their right and we need to do all we can to encourage outdoor learning and create opportunities for children to enjoy and appreciate the countryside."

Denise Kitchener, Chief Executive of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, believes the report is a welcome injection of commonsense into a debate which is too often distorted by irrational fears of litigation. She commented: "Teachers need to understand that there is nothing to fear from sensible risk assessments, which can allow them to enhance children's education through outdoor learning without causing them needless injuries."

Robert Lucas, Chief Executive of the Field Studies Council said: "We welcome The Foundation's campaign as it brings fresh thinking and makes sensible recommendations to draw attention to the importance of outdoor learning and how to reverse its decline."

Notes to editors:

· Created in 2007, The Countryside Alliance Foundation has several aims which include educating the public in subjects relating to the conservation, protection and enjoyment of the countryside, supporting access and conservation projects and promoting agriculture for the public benefit.

· (1)One Poll surveyed 2000 parents of children between the ages of 6 to 15 from across the UK.

· Outdoor education - the countryside as a classroom has been sent to all schools in England and Wales. Download it at www.countrysideclassroom.org.uk

· A pdf of the report and high quality images are available on request. The author the report, Charley May, is available for interview.

Ends

For more information contact The Countryside Alliance Foundation press office on 0207 840 9220 or 07775 938792

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