Natural England school support scheme starts

Natural England project aims to involve communities in children's outside learning opportunities.

A three-year Natural England project to give children more opportunities to experience the green space around them is due to start this year.

The Natural Connections Demonstration Project, which has Defra funding, will test new approaches to stimulating the demand for and supply of services to support learning outside the classroom. The scheme aims to develop local action and improve resources by making them more accessible.

Research commissioned from King's College London to bring together evidence on the barriers to outside learning found that 97 per cent of teachers wanted to do more. Benefits flagged included increased knowledge and understanding, changing behaviour and health, skills and wide community gains.

"We need to work locally rather than trying to solve problems at a national level," Natural England strategic public engagement adviser Anne Hunt told the RHS Growing Schools Conference held at RHS Wisley last week.

"There is a lack of coordinated support and there are very local barriers we should be dealing with. We will be working in a very tailored way, driven by the schools' needs. We don't have to reinvent the wheel."

The pilot project will test an independent brokerage service, which will involve sending someone into a school to help develop a specific approach.

"The idea is to quickly assess the school's priorities," said Hunt. "The aim is to see whether putting someone in can help. We want it to be sustainable and not reliant on grant funding."

Growing Schools Teacher workshops

Gardening can be a useful resource for teaching subjects across the curriculum, teachers were told at the RHS Growing Schools Conference last week.

A series of workshops showed teachers how they could use gardening to teach subjects including maths, science, literacy, geography, history, art and design and technology.

A workshop on the Edible School Garden demonstrated how growing food plants can help learning, drawing attention to the Sun newspaper's School Gardening Scheme running this year.

Another workshop discussed Gardening on a Shoestring, keeping costs to a minimum through re-use and recycling.

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