The leader of one of the UK’s most prominent outdoor education charities has urged the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson to improve funding to schools as a matter of urgency.
Mark Castle, chief executive of the Field Studies Council, which operates a network of field centres across England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, warned that children and young people were at ‘risk’ of losing out on valuable outdoor learning experiences because of current funding pressures on primary and secondary schools.
In an open letter, Mr Castle congratulated the new PM on his appointment and welcomed his vision for better education but urged him to make it a matter of ‘greater urgency’.
“As an environmental education charity, FSC is already seeing the direct negative impact of school funding pressures with children missing out on outdoor learning residentials,” wrote Mr Castle.
“Those that would benefit most, often have the least opportunity to explore the natural world and experience first-hand an inspiring environment that is so different from home.
“Outdoor learning and residentials in particular deliver so many benefits both for the individual, for our society and the economy.”
Mr Castle pointed out that outdoor learning helps to engage learners in hands on, practical science and STEM activities from an early age with added ‘fun’ and ‘unpredictability’ outside of the classroom.
In his letter, he also stressed the importance of such opportunities in helping to develop social and personal skills, independence, risk taking and resilience as well as highlighting the many health and well-being benefits.
But, he stressed to the PM: “These valuable experiences are at risk when school funds are under pressure. As you work towards delivering better education and closing the opportunity gap, it is essential that all learners can benefit from outdoor residentials, not just those that can afford it.”
FSC operates a network of field study centres across the UK and Ireland providing environmental education to schools, colleges and universities and on average welcomes around 165,000 visitors a year across all its locations.
For more information on its courses visit https://www.field-studies-council.org/.