GETTING children into Yorkshire’s great outdoors is essential to combat the alarming figure that only 10 per cent of British youngsters have access to outdoor learning, the Government has said.
Every child in England will have the chance to visit a National Park at each stage of their education under plans announced today by Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss today.
Primary teachers will have more information on how National Park facilities can help with learning, and using outdoor spaces will form part of the National Curriculum.
There are also plans to double the number of youth volunteers in National Parks as part of the National Citizen Service, and create more apprenticeships by 2020.
Ms Truss said she wasn’t surprised that so few children have access to outdoor opportunities in the country’s national parks and beauty spots, but with more than two thirds of the population living within 30 minutes of such a facility, it is possible to make significant changes.
She said: “I’m keen that more children visit National Parks. The North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales are a massive asset to our country and we haven’t made enough of them. Our national park plan is about encouraging more children and young people through the National Citizen Service and to encourage more people to visit from overseas.
“Just as Yellowstone is known worldwide as one of America’s national treasures, our beautiful lakes and dales, moors and fells are a symbol of this country, part of our British identity—they are also huge public assets that should benefit as many people as possible.”
New study packs for schools will be prepared as well as teaching modules for teachers to help them integrate the National Curriculum with National Parks.
National Citizen Service places with park settings available to youngsters will be doubled by 2020, she said, and the new apprenticeships available will include countryside management and rural tourism.
Currently just 10% of children regularly learn outdoors according to the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment survey, which is backed by Natural England.
North York Moors National Park chief executive, Andy Wilson, said: “It’s wonderful that we are reaching out to young people in this way. National Parks provide unique areas for people to appreciate wildlife, conservation and the beautiful outdoors. Here at the North York Moors we already have face to face engagement with around 12,000 school children a year and are working hard to meet every child within a 10 mile radius of the National Park whilst they are in School. We would love to increase our contacts with young people and do more of this valuable work.”
Ms Truss said there would be no extra funding available for the education plan but the Government’s £350m National Parks, AONB and forests budget was spared during the last spending review, and the Cabinet Office’s National Citizen Service budget will now be spending more in on national park placements for youngsters.
The decision last year to increase the geographical size of the Yorkshire Dales National Park by 25% will lead to an increase in funding of £1m between 2016 and 2018.
In the long-term the minister hopes to build annual visitor numbers to 100 million across the country’s parks and beauty spots.