Building an evidence base to support engaging children with nature: – The Publication of the 2023 Children’s People and Nature Survey report

By Natural England

Logo and Illustration: The People and Nature Surveys

It is likely that anyone connected with conservation, ecology, or nature in general will have heard phrases like ‘being in nature is good for wellbeing,’ or that being outside ‘makes children happy.’ In day-to-day conversation these terms are generally positive and ideally help people to understand and value time spent in nature. It may even be that these conversations encourage action and give people motivation to get outside more or encourage their children to do so. However, if you are a nature practitioner or academic from the nature and conservation sector, social sciences or, increasingly, from the healthcare sector looking at green prescribing, you need more than anecdotes and good conversation to support your work. You need accredited data from reliable sources.

This is where our team comes in. We are the people behind the People and Nature Surveys for England, and we have recently published the 2023 update to the Children’s People and Nature Survey (C-PaNS).

The surveys

The People and Nature Surveys for England (PaNS) provide insight about how people in England engage with, think about, value and take action to protect nature and the environment and how these change over time. Since 2020, a team at Natural England has been working with Verian (formerly known as Kantar Public) to deliver nationally representative datasets from online social surveys. Reports and statistics from this work have now been granted Accredited Official Statistic status (the new name for National Statistics).

PaNS data contributes to Natural England’s delivery of statutory duties, informs Defra policy and natural capital accounting, and contributes to the outcome indicator framework for Defra’s Environmental Improvement Plan. PaNS data is also contributing to Natural England becoming an ‘evidence led’ organisation by providing an evidence base for practitioners working to connect communities to nature and policymakers in Defra.

As well as the work we do within Natural England, we make our insight available to practitioners through the publication of annual reports, data sets and supplementary reports on our pages.

The children’s survey

Infographic for access percentages to a variety of green spaces
Figure: Green and natural places children and young people can walk to easily from their home (weighted percentage) (Natural England)

C-PaNS is a nationally representative survey of children and young people aged 8 to 15, providing insight about their behaviour, views and experiences relating to the natural environment.

In 2023, C-PaNS collected responses from 4001 children and young people across two survey waves. During the school holidays (August 2023) responses were collected from 2000 children and young people and during term time (September 2023) from 2001 children and young people. The findings from 2023 build on findings from previous years and contribute building a long-term dataset.

Key Insights

The 2023 C-PaNS report contains many insights on children and young people’s views on and experiences of the natural environment. Headline insights include:

  • 88% of children and young people agreed that being in nature made them very happy.
  • 52% of children and young people reported feeling highly connected to nature: an increase from 44% in 2021 and 47% in 2022.

There are also insights that are relevant to specific parts of the sector.

If you work in or are interested in education and time outside, you may be interested to know that:

  • 87% of children and young people said they had spent time outside at school most days or every day in the past week (1% said they never did this).
  • When asked about how often they had done activities or lessons outside that were not PE, 33% said most days or every day.

If your interest is in sustainable development or urban greening, you might be interested to know that:

  • The most common places visited by children and young people were gardens (67%), parks/playing fields/playgrounds (64%) and grassy areas in the streets nearby (43%).
  • Children and young people living in urban areas were more likely than those in rural areas to report no visits in the past week.
  • 74% of children and young people said that they could easily walk (by themselves or with someone else) to a park/playing field/playground, 73% a garden and 56% grassy areas in the streets nearby.
Infographic for percentages for environmental care activities
Figure: Behaviours and social actions by children and young people to look after the environment (weighted percentage) (Natural England)

If your interest is encouraging children to take action for the environment, you might want to know:

  • 84% of children and young people surveyed agreed that looking after the environment was important to them and 87% said that they wanted to do more to look after the environment.
  • Over half of children reported recycling (65%), turning off taps (56%), picking up litter (56%) and turning lights off (55%) to look after the environment.

This is just a small snapshot of the insights from our 2023 Children’s People and Nature Survey report. You can explore the full report here.

And there is more.

We generate far more data than we can adequately present in an annual report. Some of that data may need further study or may relate to more specific areas and is therefore better suited to a supplementary report.

We also work around our core data collection activities to learn more about the both the subject and how the surveys are performing. An example of this is the C-PaNS young people’s advisory group. Made up of children and young people, the group has provided feedback on the survey and offers additional insights into young people’s interests and priorities: they even co-designed one of the questions for the main survey. We are committed to sharing these insights, so we will be publishing a focus report in early 2024.

We believe that our surveys offer insight of relevance to everybody working across the nature, social science, statistics and any number of related sectors. We have only been able to highlight a few insights and opportunities here, but if you haven’t seen something that relates to you, or you want to know more, please contact us.

You can email us at:

You can access our data viewer here:

You can keep up to date with all the latest news on our user hub, and sign up to our newsletter here: Welcome to the People and Nature Survey (

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Posted On: 06/12/2023

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