Geography students are losing access to nature as fieldwork falls | Access to green space

The director general of the National Trust, Hilary McGrady, is correct when she says that “the benefit of ensuring access to nature is plain to see but there is unequal access to it” (Three-quarters of children want more time in nature, says National Trust, 1 April). Sadly, evidence shows that this situation is also reflected in our schools.

Over the last 20 years, Ofsted reports have shown that school fieldwork has been declining. And a survey of geography teachers in 2023 indicated that since Covid, up to 40% of secondary schools may have cut their provision of fieldwork. This trend affects smaller schools and those serving disadvantaged pupils the hardest.

A combination of costs, Covid catch-up and other administrative hurdles are limiting the work of many geography teachers who want to offer their pupils high-quality fieldwork.

So as well as trips that might take place farther afield, at the Geographical Association we are supporting teachers to explore local, low-cost fieldwork – whether investigating carbon storage in a local wood, soil infiltration in the school grounds or the health of a local stream.

Regardless of the weather, it is in the field where young people encounter the messy, complicated real world and develop a deeper understanding of how our human and natural worlds interact. It will be this understanding that is essential if young people are to become the future custodians of our environment.
Steve Brace
Chief executive, Geographical Association

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