March 2021 edition: Children Need Nature Now

Children Need Nature Now

Whilst COVID-19 caused us all to pause and radically changed our lives, many people rediscovered the power of being outside in nature.

The positive impact of nature on mental wellbeing is evidence based, well documented and recognised. Indeed, Nick Gibb often quotes the Government’s 25 year environment plan key commitment ‘to encourage children to be close to nature, in and out of school, recognising that playing and learning outside is a fundamental part of childhood and supports children’s mental health and wellbeing. We (the Department for Education) also know that some children have good access to natural spaces whilst others do not, such as those living in areas of high disadvantage’.

This is why the Nature Premium is an idea whose time has come. We are calling for the government to invest in a Nature Premium to fund regular nature experiences for all children. It would be a statutory requirement for schools to take children regularly into nature (nature defined as wild school grounds, gardening, Forest School, city farms, nature-based residentials, etc.).

Primarily, the Nature Premium would provide a practical means of supporting the mental and physical wellbeing of all children. Regular time in and connection with nature would help all children learn how to manage their own mental wellbeing and make them happier and healthier (83% of children said that being in nature made them very happy). All children would benefit from this investment and, at the same time, it would ‘level up’ children from low income and BAME families. The Nature Premium would also complement current funding that supports and advises teachers how to work with children in crisis.

The Nature Premium would provide an answer to the Government’s call for nature-based solutions in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impending climate crisis. It would offer an immediate provision to address the urgent need to give children agency to address three of the biggest challenges we face: managing mental health, the biodiversity crisis and climate emergency. Children and young people care deeply about the planet and other people and they feel worried about their futures - they want to take action, but are frustrated at the apparent lack of concern they see around them. By investing in the Nature Premium, the Government would signal to all children and young people that they are listening to their concerns and supporting them to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to live more healthily in the future.

Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta’s HM Treasury commissioned report recommends teaching every child natural history so that they appreciate how the natural world contributes to our lives. He goes on to say that this ‘would contribute to countering the shifting baseline, whereby we progressively redefine ourselves as inhabitants of an emptying world and believe that what we see is how it is and how it will continue to be’. For the benefit of our economy, we each need the knowledge and understanding to modify our own behaviour to be sustainable, and challenge those who over-exploit our natural resources on which we all depend for our survival.

Children and young people care deeply about the planet and other people and they feel worried about their futures.

Sara Collins and Richard Dunne

Not only would the Nature Premium support each individual child’s learning, it would increase public awareness and understanding of the need to move to net-zero and prepare for the risks of climate change as recommended by the Committee for Climate Change (an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008).

The Nature Premium is not a challenge to change the curriculum but a means to enhance it further. It is a straightforward way of:

  • delivering immediate benefit to each child’s wellbeing.

  • improving children’s behaviour, resilience, and attendance at school.

  • increasing engagement with STEM subjects.

  • building their knowledge and skills around nature so that they can contribute to the ‘new green’ economy.

  • delivering a framework to build an understanding of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

  • supporting schools to fulfil their own Net Zero responsibilities.

  • increasing public awareness of our individual responsibilities.

  • fulfilling government stated aims and ambitions including enhancing children’s recovery from Lockdowns and achieving Net Zero.

  • underpinning the Government’s ambition to increase international action on adaptation and resilience as one of the core priorities for the UK's Presidency of COP26.

Support is growing, across sectors, for the Nature Premium.

The campaign will:

  • continue to collect political support from ministers outside of the DfE.

  • broker a private/public offering to fund the Nature Premium.

  • inform parents, children and young people about the benefits of connecting with nature and managing their own mental health and wellbeing.

Please support the Nature Premium to provide all children with experiences previous generations took for granted. It offers a simple, ambitious idea that has the power to transform a generation and prepare it for a sustainable future.