Author Topic: [Mr Joe Benton in the Chair] - Outdoor Learning | Westminster Hall debates  (Read 1591 times)

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Offline Fido

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[Mr Joe Benton in the Chair] - Outdoor Learning | Westminster Hall debates
15 December 2010, 11:35 am

I fully support this excellent debate, which was secured by my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart). First, I shall say why I am supportive. I shall then make a plea to the Minister, which I hope will be helpful.

Many of my hon. Friends spoke of the significance of engagement. I have visited Crowdys Hill school in my constituency; it is an excellent school for children with autism and autism spectrum disorders. It is fortunate enough to have a small livestock holding on site. To see at first hand the sheer joy and engagement of the children during their hands-on involvement with nature is fantastic.

Not many schools have livestock holdings, but several have some form of nature reserve. It concerns me that many modern private finance initiative schools do not have the space. That is a real challenge, as we look forward to the next wave of schools being built.

We have the headquarters of the National Trust in my constituency. In its contribution to the debate, it says that, generation by generation, we are spending less and less time with nature and reducing our capacity to understand, respect and conserve the natural environment.

Having spoken on similar subjects before, and having been a councillor for 10 years, I know that back gardens in new-build houses are a third of the size that they were in the 1960s. Parents are concerned about letting their children venture too far, but nowadays they cannot venture out even on their own doorstep. New developments are often concrete jungles, with limited open space. That is a major concern.

The outdoors provides a wealth of leisure opportunities for a healthy, active lifestyle, and is often available at no cost. As a lead council member for leisure, I considered investing in leisure centres, and I support that. However, the outdoors gives families and people of all ages a wonderful opportunity to be active without having to spend huge amounts of money. That is why I call it the great outdoors.

I have many happy memories of growing up and charging around Arley and the Malvern hills with my classmates, doing orienteering and burning off huge amounts of energy. My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) will be pleased to know that we often got lost, partly because we were not supervised, but we learned some good teambuilding skills. Certainly, my map-reading skills benefited greatly.

I touched on the subject in an intervention, but my plea is about insurance for schools. If the cost proves to be a barrier, it limits access. I believe that the Department for Education should negotiate a national insurance contract to cover all schools. Putting all those insurance renewals together would be one hell of a piece of buying power, giving potential economies of scale. That would be benefit sport and many other activities for which schools need to bus children elsewhere. It would be a constructive thing for the Department to do.

Source: Justin Tomlinson's recent appearances (TheyWorkForYou)