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Funding boost to improve outside learning facilities

Government announces £15 million to help young people in disadvantaged areas to learn outside and experience nature

  • £15 million to help young people in deprived and nature-depleted areas learn outside

  • Funding will also allow schools, colleges and nurseries to improve biodiversity on their sites

  • New virtual ‘National Education Nature Park’ will help children and young people connect to nature and develop green skills

Nurseries, schools and colleges with the least access to nature are set to receive a funding boost that will help them develop the biodiversity of their site and improve their outside learning facilities.

To mark outdoor classroom recently (18 May), the Department for Education announced £15 million to support young people to get outdoors and learn about the natural world.

Schools, colleges and nurseries that are ranked the lowest in Natural England’s measure of local access to natural space and are in areas with high levels of deprivation will be eligible for a grant.

The funding could be used to buy equipment that might be preventing children in deprived areas from taking part in outdoor learning or providing accessible routes to nature in SEND schools. It could also help with the purchase of outdoor equipment and clothing, the creation of outdoor teaching areas and the purchase of teaching tools such as acoustic listening devices.

Alongside this funding, a new online ‘National Education Nature Park’ will be launched to allow young people to learn from other schools, colleges and nurseries who are taking steps to improve their biodiversity. The initiative – being delivered in partnership with the Natural History Museum and Royal Horticultural Society – will allow pupils to document and upload the steps they have taken to improve the natural environment around their site – such a creating a pond or rewilding a piece of land. Collecting and sharing biodiversity data in this way will enhance their skills in mapping, numeracy and spatial awareness.

Schools, colleges, and nurseries can register their interest in the National Education Nature Park ahead of a full launch in autumn 2023.

Minister for the School System, Baroness Barran recently said:

It’s so important that we give young people the opportunity to get outside to learn about the natural world and the importance protecting our precious biodiversity. This funding will give schools, colleges and nurseries the resources they need to create thriving green spaces, halt the decline of nature and improve access to outside learning. “Through the innovative new National Education Nature Park, students will also be able to enhance their skills and knowledge of mapping and numeracy, helping to equip them for the jobs of the future

Doug Gurr, Director of the Natural History Museum recently said:

We are absolutely thrilled to be working with the Department for Education and our partners to make the National Education Nature Park and Climate Action Awards start to become a reality. In the face of the planetary emergency and Museum research showing that the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, having our scientists sharing their world-leading biodiversity expertise with the scientists of tomorrow gives me so much hope, both for the future of biodiversity in this country and for the futures of the young people taking part”.

Clare Matterson CBE, Director General of the Royal Horticultural Society, recently said:

From creating pollinator-friendly habitats, digging ponds, identifying wildlife or planning planting schemes, nurseries, schools and colleges will be able to play a driving role in mapping, monitoring and enhancing biodiversity on their doorstep. Children and young people will have a chance to create and grow a garden that works for wildlife, to learn new skills and understand impacts of climate change - all of which offers a gateway to a lifelong interest in nature, biodiversity and sustainability”.

As part of the programme, the Natural History Museum will create curriculum resources and lessons plans for each key stage to support education about climate change and biodiversity.

Schools, colleges and nurseries could also be recognised with a new Climate Action Award, designed to celebrate success in supporting children and young people to have a positive impact on their environment whilst developing new skills essential for a sustainable future in bioscience, data science, numeracy and horticulture.

All education settings would be eligible if they fit the following criteria:

  • They had submitted a school level census return in term 1 of 2021-22

  • The education setting was in an Lower Tier Local Authority deemed to be in a category 1 “Levelling up area” by DLUHC in its 2nd round of Levelling Up Fund

  • The education setting was in an LSOA described by Natural England as an L1 area (less than 5% of the LSOA was covered by or within 300m of accessible natural green space)

  • The education sector in the UK will play a critical role in positively responding to climate change and inspiring action on an international stage. DfE’s vision is for the ‘UK education sector to be a world leader in sustainability and climate change by 2030’.

  • The Department is helping to create a sustainable future through education, developing the skills needed for a green economy, and supporting our sectors to reach net zero targets.

  • The Department’s strategy for Sustainability and Climate Change has been informed by stakeholders and young people and sets out action to 2030 on: 1) climate education; 2) green skills and careers; 3) the education estate and digital infrastructure; 4) operations and supply chains, and; 5) international. This action will be evaluated and built on as new opportunities and evidence arise. The Strategy is available via this link: Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy (Gov uk)

  • The Strategy sets out new initiatives including extra support for teaching about nature and climate change, the introduction of a Natural History GCSE, a National Education Nature Park, Climate Action Award and support for education leaders to take a whole-setting approach to climate change.

  • From the late Autumn, nurseries, schools, colleges and universities will be able to access more support to help lead, develop and implement a climate action plan to take a holistic approach to sustainability – from participating in the Park and Award, teaching about climate change and taking practical steps to adapt and decarbonise buildings for the future.

  • The Department for Education and Times Higher Education are delighted to announce the International Green Skills Conference: Skills for a Changing World, taking place on Thursday 28th September at Imperial College London. The conference will shine a light on the breadth of, and appetite for green skills learning and training opportunities and career pathways within a global context and explore how skills can support the transition to net zero. We hope you can join us!



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