The Nature Premium – an idea whose time has come
Have you heard of the Nature Premium campaign? We are calling for the government to invest in a Nature Premium to fund regular nature experiences for all children. It’s called the Nature Premium to model it on the Sports Premium that ensures at least an hour of PE for primary school children every week. The Nature Premium would provide ring fenced funding for the statutory requirement to make sure that all children spend regular time in nature.
The campaign is run by volunteers who have seen the positive impact that time in nature has on children. The national co-ordinator of the campaign Dr Sara Collins said ‘I think the reason we are being successful is that it is a very simple idea. It’s about supporting our children’s well-being; the Nature Premium would result in happier and healthier children’.
The campaign developed from a discussion during a Forest School Association directors meeting. Although we have a Forest School background, we think it is important that schools interpret ‘nature’ to be whatever will benefit their children and surroundings. We define nature as wild school grounds, woodlands, gardening, countryside and farming, conservation, Forest School, permaculture, city farms, coast and wetlands and more.
There are many good reasons why the government should invest in the Nature Premium (see Fig 1). In fact, the Department for Education has already stated that ‘We recognise that playing and learning outside is a fundamental part of childhood and supports children’s mental health and wellbeing. We also know that some children have good access to natural spaces whilst others do not, such as those living in areas of high disadvantage’. The Nature Premium would be fair as it would treat all children the same AND remove the inequity of access to nature that has become evident during lockdown.
- 71% of children from black and ethnic minority backgrounds reported spending less time outside since coronavirus, compared with 57% of white children.
- Three-quarters (73%) of children from households with annual income below £17,000 spent less time outdoors, compared with 57% from households with an annual income above £17,000.
In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impending climate crisis there is an urgency that demands supporting the Nature Premium for the benefit of all children.
- 71% of people agreed that time spent in/surrounded by nature has been more important to them since the onset of the Coronavirus crisis in the UK.
- It will give children agency to face three of the biggest challenges we face: biodiversity loss, climate change and wellbeing.
- 83% of children said that being in nature made them very happy.
We believe that the Nature Premium will increase:
- A range of outdoor education and nature experiences offered to all pupils to benefit their mental health, wellbeing, and education.
- The engagement of all pupils with the natural world and human dependence on it.
- The profile of nature, sustainability, and the UN Sustainability Development Goals as a tool for whole-school improvement and community engagement.
- Confidence, knowledge, and skills of staff in teaching in the outdoors - in nature.
- Participation in local and global community environment issues addressing climate change, biodiversity loss, sustainability in school and the local community and volunteering with ‘nature’ charities.
How can we fund the Nature Premium? The Sports Premium provides a model. It is primarily funded using a soft drinks levy. The government has demonstrated again and again in the last six months that a political decision can generate the necessary funding. The Nature Premium would be an investment to transform the next generation. Take a look below, the Nature Premium ticks all the boxes.
Is it what the public wants?
- A YouGov Survey (May 2020) for the RSPB sought the views of adults in England on the role of nature in our communities during the Coronavirus crisis and its potential to help in our recovery. The results show that regardless of age, social class or income, adults in England:
- Overwhelmingly support protecting and investing in nature and increasing accessible natural greenspace as part of our recovery from Coronavirus.
- Strongly oppose the UK Government reducing spending on nature or putting less emphasis on protecting nature.
- See nature as important for health and wellbeing and access to nature close to home as beneficial during the Coronavirus crisis.
- An Ipsos-Mori Poll (June 2020) for Conservative Environment Network CEN revealed that Brits would view a failure to tackle pollution and climate change in a post-coronavirus recovery plan as:
- ‘Bad for the economy in the long run’ (67%).
- ‘A sign that the government has the wrong priorities’ (69%).
The Nature Premium is an idea whose time has come.
If you would like to know more about the Nature Premium please take a look at our website www.naturepremium.org
For more information or to support the campaign please contact Sara Collins
Sara A Collins
Forest School Association
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