Human reliance on nature back in curriculum

Monday 8th July 2013

Following the publication of the new national curriculum today, The Wildlife Trusts welcome the inclusion of children being required to learn about human dependence and our impact on nature.

This was absent in the draft proposals published in February, but has thankfully been reinstated. All children will now be expected to ‘understand how human and physical processes interact to influence, and change landscapes, environments and the climate; and how human activity relies on effective functioning of natural systems.’ We also welcome the reinsertion of the study of climate change into the curriculum.

The Wildlife Trusts were strongly critical of the draft national curriculum, published in February, which had dropped references to children being taught ‘to care for the environment’ or ‘ways in which living things and the environment need protection.’

An understanding of nature, and our total dependence on it, is something we must develop from an early age

But while this change is welcome, The Wildlife Trusts are calling on the Government to go further and invest in the huge challenge of ensuring that every child leaves school with a good grasp of what nature does for us and why it is important – for us as individuals, our communities, for wider society and the economy. We would like to see:
1. Active support for a national measure of wellbeing that is specifically about the proportion of school-aged children regularly having significant, positive, first-hand experiences of the natural world.
2. Active support for all schools incorporating Forest Schools and similar high quality outdoor learning in their teaching.
3. Active support for teachers to make them more confident, competent and willing to teach their pupils about the value of nature.
4. Leadership (with Defra and DoH) to champion the personal, educational, social, health and related benefits of children having regular, active experiences of nature.

Director of Strategy at The Wildlife Trusts, Nigel Doar explains: “As we go about our daily lives, many people’s contact with nature is declining. But an understanding of nature, and our total dependence on it, is something we must develop from an early age.”

More than 162,000 pupils from 4,400 schools in England visited Wildlife Trusts in 2012 with over 120,000 getting involved in outreach work. One field trip or a few lessons in the school grounds can change a child’s perspective for ever; but our society must do much, much more to enhance children’s lives through contact with the natural world. For information about The Wildlife Trusts work with children and nature please see http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/learning