New plan to give every child a chance to visit National Parks

Looking towards Rothbury, from Lordenshaws. Picture by David Taylor

Looking towards Rothbury, from Lordenshaws. Picture by David Taylor

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Every schoolchild in England will have the chance to visit our National Parks at each stage of their education under plans announced today by Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss.

The announcement comes as as new figures reveal only 10 per cent of pupils currently have access to outdoor learning.

The new Plan for National Parks kick-starts a programme of activity to safeguard the future of these iconic landscapes, including by engaging young people throughout their education: from primary school, bringing more than 80,000 young people to visit National Parks and putting National Parks in the curriculum; at secondary school, doubling the number of youth volunteers in National Parks as part of the National Citizen Service; in their first steps to employment, developing a new apprenticeship standard and doubling apprenticeships in National Parks by 2020.

With more than half of the population in England living within an hour of a National Park, the plan aims to increase the diversity of visitors from the UK - as well as promoting these world-class cultural attractions to a global audience through the GREAT campaign to drive international tourism. The Environment Secretary aims to build annual visitor numbers to 100 million, bringing around £440million more to local businesses, adding to the £4billion already generated by National Parks.

Chairman of the Northumberland National Park Authority, Coun Glen Sanderson, said: "I'm delighted to see education at the very heart of the Government's Plan for National Parks. Here at Northumberland National Park, we have long been committed to engaging with schools, colleges and universities to ensure students of all ages have the opportunity to learn and be inspired by our unique landscape and heritage.

"We're currently building The Sill, the UK’s first dedicated Landscape Discovery Centre, adjacent to the Hadrian’s Wall UNESCO World Heritage site. The Sill will accommodate interactive learning facilities that can be used across the curriculum, as well as acting as a hub for our ongoing educational activity programme that reaches out far beyond the building itself.

"By opening up Northumberland National Park to learners of all ages and abilities we are investing in future generations of landscape enthusiasts so we warmly welcome the educational commitment made in the Plan for National Parks."

The Government protected National Parks’ budgets in the last spending review, committing more than £350million for English National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and forests.

Ms Truss said: "National Parks already welcome over 90 million visitors every year and make a major contribution to our vibrant rural economy, but too many children in our country are not aware of these natural wonders. I want to celebrate our inspiring natural environment so more visitors than ever before can enjoy the majestic Lakes, tranquil Northumberland and the wide open spaces of the South Downs.

"Just as Yellowstone is known worldwide as one of America's national treasures, our beautiful lakes and dales, moors and fells are a symbol of this country, part of our British identity - they are also huge public assets that should benefit as many people as possible. By instilling a love of nature in our young people and building thriving communities in every National Park, our plan will allow these unique spaces to flourish for generations to come."