Every schoolchild in England will have the chance to visit National Parks at each stage of their education under plans announced today by Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss - as new figures reveal only 10 per cent of schoolchildren currently have access to outdoor learning.
The new eight-point plan outlines the Government's programme of activity for the National Parks over the next five years. A key point is to involve young people in National Parks throughout their education:
- from primary school, bringing more than 80,000 young people to visit National Parks and putting National Parks in the curriculum
- at secondary school, doubling the number of youth volunteers in National Parks as part of the National Citizen Service
- in their first steps to employment, developing a new apprenticeship standard and doubling apprenticeships in National Parks by 2020
As part of the plan, the government will promote new teaching materials for schools based on National Parks, to connect National Parks with the curriculum. This will be promoted by the Department for Education and accessible through the National Parks UK website.
It will also support National Park Authorities to produce a range of materials in partnership with the private sector and philanthropic donors.
The plan also aims to increase the diversity of visitors from the UK and promote the parks to a global audience. The goal for annual visitor numbers is 100 million, which would bring around £440m more to local businesses, adding to the £4bn already generated by National Parks.
Launching the new plan in the South Downs National Park, Truss said National Parks were "huge public assets" that should benefit as many people as possible.
"By instilling a love of nature in our young people and building thriving communities in every National Park, our plan will allow these unique spaces to flourish for generations to come."
Along with work already underway to give schools in England one million native British trees to plant in their communities, National Parks will be a key part of a new government campaign later this year to connect children with nature and the environment.
The plan also aims to harness the power of the natural environment to improve national wellbeing, after research published last month by Natural England showed taking part in nature-based activities can contribute to a reduction in anxiety, stress, and depression.
It recommended greater use of "green care" to help people suffering from mental ill health, including taking part in environmental conservation - for example, through innovative schemes in National Parks.
Jim Bailey, Chair of National Parks England said: "Our National Parks are the jewels in the crown of our beautiful countryside and something to be very proud of. They are living, working landscapes that need careful stewardship, for the benefit and enjoyment by all. I look forward to working with the government on delivering this exciting Plan for England’s National Parks."