The Countryside Alliance Foundation’s Chief Executive, Alice Barnard, writes: Our campaign to see outdoor education included on the National Curriculum is gathering momentum, and I wanted to update you on our progress. Our dedicated campaigns team has been at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Birmingham this week, with a new outdoor education-focused stand. Delegates have been invited to sign up to our campaign and over 200 have done so, with many writing messages of support on a succession of green hands, illustrating our call for a hands-on approach to outdoor education. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has visited the stand (pictured), as have other Parliamentarians including Sir Alan Beith, Roger Williams, Jeremy Browne, Tom Brake and Baroness Benjamin. We look forward to further support at the forthcoming Labour and Conservative conferences.
Ahead of conference season and to underline the merit of our campaign, The Countryside Alliance Foundation released new polling which showed that an impressive 92 per cent of parents want their child to receive outdoor education. This almost-unanimous result shows the desire parents have for their children to learn more about our countryside, to visit it, understand it and enjoy it as a central part of their formal education. The main barrier, parents believe, is health and safety, although the majority feel this should not be a hindrance at all. They are right: our Freedom of Information request to local educational authorities reveals that just 16 of 190 LEAs paid out compensation arising from accidents on school trips in 2010/11.
We are working hard to put our case and it shows the strength of our campaign that we had a meeting with the Education Secretary Michael Gove last week to keep him abreast of our work and research. He was in agreement that outdoor education is important, although his belief is that it is not necessary to put it onto the National Curriculum. We will continue to make our case and campaign on this issue: our Fishing for Schools and Falconry for Schools programmes, as well as our young countryside days, show the phenomenal impact outdoor education has on youngsters. Confidence, enjoyment, communication – all are enhanced, and there’s fresh air aplenty. There is nothing not to like.
We also have an interactive way for supporters to make your MP aware of our campaign and to support our work. We have launched a new electronic lobbying campaign through which you can email your MP today. The lobby is calling for an entitlement to outdoor learning to be created within the National Curriculum to ensure the countryside becomes part of every child’s education. It is simple, quick and you can email your MP by clicking here.
We will continue to highlight the strong support of parents for outdoor education and the nonsense of the health and safety fears surrounding the issue. Together we can make a real difference on this issue.