2013-10-23   facebooktwitterrss
More Children Than Ever Visiting Farms

Over the past year, approximately 250,000 children participated in outdoor learning events on farms funded through agri-environment schemes run by Natural England, making this one of the largest single outdoor learning service in the UK.

Nearly 1,200 farmers and landowners now benefit from educational access payments, an increase of almost 30% over the last three years. With support from these schemes, increasing numbers of children are welcomed onto farms and wildlife sites to learn about the natural environment and food production and take part in activities which support learning across the national curriculum.

Murray Graham of Field Farm, Oxfordshire giving visiting youngsters a chance to see the view from the cab Murray Graham of Field Farm, Oxfordshire giving visiting youngsters a chance to see the view from the cab
© Jenny Hanwell/Natural England

In the 2011 Natural Environment White Paper (NEWP), the Government recognised the importance of making sure children understand where their food comes from, especially through school visits to farms. To that end, a commitment was made to ‘fund educational visits by schoolchildren up to the age of 16’, with funds delivered through the educational access options associated with agri-environment schemes. Through these schemes, farmers receive payments for leading visits, in addition to the funding they receive for environmental land management options.

Recent data obtained using random sampling techniques shows that these visits continue to grow in popularity with more and more schools discovering the benefits. The milestone of an estimated 250,000 children taking part represents an increase of around 90% over the last three years.

Murray Graham, who farms Field Farm in Oxfordshire, said: “It’s great to hear that the numbers of children visiting farms is increasing. On our farm we have found over the last couple of years that we are getting more enquiries and once the schools have visited it becomes an annual event for them, with some schools sending several classes over the year. The teachers are realising it is important for the children to learn about farming and the countryside, and what better way than to see it first hand! In the last 12 months we have welcomed 25 different groups to the farm totaling just over 900 students. It is rewarding to be able to welcome this number of children and explain what happens and why on the farm.”

Mr Graham has undertaken training as part of the Countryside Educational Visits Accreditation Scheme (CEVAS) and in 2010 he received capital funding from Natural England to develop a farm classroom. He also offers joint farm visits with Natural England’s Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve and the Chilterns Conservation Board.

Organisations such as FACE, LEAF, The Country Trust, and other members of the Access to Farms network work in partnership with Natural England to support the many farmers now who offer educational access programmes.

Dan Corlett, the chief executive of Farming & Countryside Education (FACE), said: “It has never been more important to help children make a connection with the natural environment and appreciate where their food comes from and understand more about how it is produced. It’s very encouraging to hear that so many farmers are now offering educational activities on their land with support from agri-environment agreement options and that the take up by schools and other education groups is so high”.

Geoff Sansome, Land Management director for Natural England, added: “Opening the farm up to groups as an educational resource is a great opportunity for children to experience life on a farm, learn about wildlife, where their food comes from and how the land is managed. The news that up to a quarter of a million children have had the opportunity to do just that over the last year is immensely reassuring and a tribute to the efforts that farmers and landowners are making to run educational activities”.

Natural England

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