As someone who has publicly acknowledged the impact of connections to nature in supporting my own struggles with mental illness (here) it was pleasing to see the formal acknowledgement from DEFRA of the importance of outdoor experiences on mental well-being.
The DEFRA 25 year plan – launched by No 10 last week – intends to work on how NHS mental health providers in England could work with environmental voluntary sector organisations to offer mental health therapies. This approach – as part of a wider move towards social prescribing – is welcome.
The report also acknowledges the important role of the outdoors in learning and it is particularly encouraging that the report notes the current inequity of access to positive experiences with nature.
Like so many areas of enrichment the children that are likely to benefit the most from outdoor learning are those that access it the least. We know issues like funding cuts to schools, youth work and adventure learning are having a significant impact on equitable provision.
The £10 million committed to schools’ work won’t address this gap, but it does present an opportunity for the outdoor learning community and schools to consider some solutions.
Every Child Should is working with English Outdoor Council (EOC), Institute of Outdoor Learning, Learning Away, Council for Learning Outside the Classroom and other partners on approaches to address this inequity.
The EOC response to the DEFRA announcement can be found here.
If we believe that every child should have connections to nature, then the DEFRA report provides some green shoots.