Children must be taught the true value of nature

Thursday 21st March 2013

Discovering nature

Everyone who cares for the natural environment is being urged to call on the Government to ensure children are taught about its true value.

Concerned by proposed changes to the national curriculum, which could see children not being taught about protecting the natural environment, The Wildlife Trusts are today urging people to respond to the Government’s consultation on The Reform of the National Curriculum in England, which runs until Tuesday 16 April.

Current proposals in the draft new curriculum quietly drop any reference to English school children being required to be taught ‘to care for the environment’ or ‘ways in which living things and the environment need protection’.

The Wildlife Trusts believe that, if adopted, Government proposals could seriously undermine the understanding that young people have of their dependence on nature. They could also affect society’s future ability to function in harmony with the natural environment, on which it ultimately depends.

Every year up to 15,000 children participate in environmental education activities with The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country and just a few sessions this can change a child’s perspective for ever; but there still needs to be more.

President of The Wildlife Trusts, Simon King OBE, is pressing Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove MP, to:
• Reinstate teaching about protecting the natural environment into the curriculum
• introduce more education about the natural environment in schools

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph - published yesterday - Simon King writes: “I can hardly believe that anyone would want to make changes to the curriculum that could lead to large-scale human suffering and damage the rest of life on earth. Yet Michael Gove proposes to stop teaching children to care for the environment. 

“A younger generation equipped to understand and tackle the massive environmental problems we have left them is our only hope for the future." Simon King

"We urge Mr Gove to drop these ill-considered and dangerous proposals, to introduce more education about the natural environment in schools and do some intensive training in ecology with his local Wildlife Trust.”

The consultation on a revised national curriculum was launched by the Department for Education on Thursday 7 February 2013. It closes on Tuesday 16 April 2013. Responses can be made here

Notes for editors:

Changes to the National Curriculum
The new curriculum is considerably shorter than the existing one, and is therefore inevitably less detailed. However, looking at a comparison of the current curriculum to the consultation document, it is clear there are fewer references to changes in the environment caused by humans, and references to caring for and managing the environment have also been removed.

The Reform of the National Curriculum in England 
The Government launched a review of the National Curriculum in January 2011 with the aim of “ensuring that the aspirations we set for our children match those in the highest-performing education jurisdictions, and giving teachers greater freedom over how to teach”. The proposals, on which the Department for Education is consulting, represent the outcomes of that review. This consultation is being conducted under section 96 of the Education Act 2002

The Wildlife Trusts’ engagement with young people
In 2012, 4,400 schools engaged with Wildlife Trusts in England. More than 120,000 students got involved in outreach work and more than 162,000 pupils made school visits to Wildlife Trusts. There are 140,000 members of our junior branch Wildlife Watch in England.

The Wildlife Trusts’ teams support and enhance learning in thousands of schools each year. We have accessible and inspiring locations, experienced dedicated staff and great community links. Our excellent track record is one of providing inspirational, effective learning experiences for schools’ staff and pupils at every level and across a huge range of subjects. The Wildlife Trusts have been welcoming school parties onto our nature reserves for more than 50 years!

The nature and extent of Trusts’ work supporting formal sector learning is decided locally. Examples of the type of work carried out by Wildlife Trusts includes improving school grounds for wildlife, guided visits to nature reserves, providing resources for educators, Forest Schools, school membership schemes, visits to schools and more. You can see more about what we do locally here