An Open Letter to Education Ministers

Teachers and school leaders from across the four nations have written an open letter to Gavin Williamson (Secretary of State for Education), John Swinney MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills in Scotland), Peter Weir MLA (Minister for Education in Northern Ireland) and Kirsty Williams MS (Minister for Education in Wales).

In this open letter to key government figures, educators from across the UK have been inspired by their positive experiences of Learning through Landscape’s My School, My Planet programme to stress the importance of continued outdoor learning for all children.

Findings from a recent survey by Natural England have shown that children from marginalised ethnic backgrounds and low-income families have had the least access to the natural environment during the pandemic. Projects like My School, My Planet, our ground-breaking programme designed and delivered during the pandemic, have sought to combat these inequalities, and the teachers involved have witnessed the positive impact that outdoor learning can have on pupils’ social skills, education and wellbeing. These observations have been given further weight by the findings of the independent evaluation of My School, My Planet, led by The Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY).

We know that delivering high-quality, curriculum-linked outdoor learning programmes will help with children’s recovery from the pandemic, and we strongly support this call by educators to make outdoor learning a priority across the UK.

We are grateful to all of the educators who signed the open letter for your support of Learning through Landscapes and for celebrating our outdoor learning expertise.

You can read the full open letter below:

As headteachers, teachers and educators fromacross the UK, we are united in our determination to provide the best life chances for ourpupils. Collectively, we are responsible for the education of many of the most disadvantaged children in our society, from diverse ethnic backgrounds and low-income families. These are the pupils who have been hit hardest by this pandemic. We are writing because we believe that outdoor spaces, school grounds in particular, mustbe better used to support the wellbeing and academic progress of our pupils. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds have had the least access to the natural environment, with many pupils in our schoolshaving no safe way of accessing outdoor spaces from their home. Interventions for thesepupils must make full use of the opportunities school grounds present, and teachersmust besupported to confidently deliver their curriculum in the great outdoors. We know that outside is the safest place for our pupils to be as the Covid pandemic continues. Earlier this academic year our schools were among those selected to pilot a pioneering outdoor education programme,My School, My Planet, designed by the charity Learning through Landscapes(LtL),to re-engage and motivate our pupils returning to school after prolonged lockdowns. For many of our pupils, utilising our school grounds for lessons through the My School, My Planet programme has had, and continues to have, a positive effect on their mental health, readiness to learn, social skills and connection to the natural environment. Our observations are reflected in the independent evaluation of My School, My Planetby the Centre for Education and Youth. The reportdescribes an immediate and measurable impact on children’s ability to engage with their environment, to improve their knowledge, and to increase their level of physical activity. We call on you to help schools access high-quality outdoor learning programmes as part of the recovery from the pandemic for all of our children. We believe that commissioningtraining and expert support from organisations like Learning through Landscapes for sustained,curriculum-linked outdoor learning provision, should bea matter of urgency, to help those children most likely to have been locked in during lockdown. We are eager to share the benefits of outdoor learning with you and demonstrate how our schools have used outdoor spaces to help pupils recover and reintegrate.

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Two children laughing in their autumnal school grounds as they participate in an activity through the My School, My Planet project run by Learning through Landscapes.Carley Sefton