Giving young people access to outdoor educational opportunities
helps them to experience and understand the sense of freedom, inspiration
and enjoyment the countryside brings, Jim Knight told a national
conference today (Thursday 26).
Speaking at the Farms for Schools National Conference
in Kettering, Rural Affairs Minister, Jim Knight, said:
"Farmers not only produce most of the food we eat, they
also shape our landscape and manage the habitats of some of our
"The Farms for Schools programme helps children and young
people properly understand this reality, helping them towards
healthier diets and an appreciation of our landscape, as celebrated
by our artists, poets and musicians.
"Our natural resources and our wealth of biodiversity -
the plants, animals and landscapes that make our country special
- are there to be enjoyed by all. We must all work together to
help others understand more and experience more than they currently
do, in particular our children and young people."
Mr Knight continued:
"An improved understanding is one of the key elements to
protecting the countryside and stimulating people to experience
the pleasure and freedom it brings, is the best way to get them
to value it properly.
"We are already spending more than a million pounds each
year, through the educational access strand of our Environmental
Stewardship Scheme, working to encourage a better understanding
and more engagement with our natural environment. Driving up
standards in the way that educational experience is one of the
elements to this work."
Research published by the Countryside Agency last year, looked
at why some groups in our society do not make as much use of
the countryside as others do.
"It shows that people from inner cities, disabled people
and the black and minority ethnic community are among the groups
whose needs could be better served by many organisations who
offer outdoor recreation opportunities. Once they have 'tasted'
the experience, these groups are keen to continue visiting the
"We need to find ways to make the countryside more attractive
so that as many people as possible can benefit from all that
it has to offer.
"It seems there is a tendency for young people to have
a negative view of life in the countryside, even though they
understand some of the benefits it can have for their physical
and mental wellbeing. We need to challenge and change that perception,
not least because it is vital to the future of our rural areas," Mr
Addressing the question as to why more young people do not seem
to fully understand and appreciate their natural environment,
Mr Knight said:
"One of the reasons is the concern that parents have, when
their kids are involved in countryside or "adventure" activities.
I am sure we can all recall incidents in the media where school
trips, for example, have gone terribly wrong.
"However, programmes such as Farms for Schools are going
a long way to allay those fears and change those perceptions.
Providing proper safety checks and risk assessments can really
help to address some of the concerns that teachers and parents
have about outdoor educational activities.
"I look forward to watching your further progress on helping
more children and young people see the countryside as the inspirational
and exciting place to visit that it is."
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