Children from the Chough Club based at St.Just Primary School, pretending to be Choughs, Botallack, Cornwall, England

Nature Education in England

Learning in the Natural Environment

In 2003, the RSPB identified a decline in the number of children having firsthand experiences of nature.

With like-minded organisations, we co-founded the Real World Learning Partnership in England, and campaigned in the run up to the 2005 General Election for the removal of barriers preventing every child experiencing out-of-classroom learning.

In May 2006, we produced 'Out-of-Classroom Learning: practical information and guidance for schools and teachers' and distributed copies to every English state school.

Manifesto for Learning Outside

The previous government launched their Manifesto for Learning Outside the Classroom launched in November 2006. This now has more than 1,600 signatories supporting the manifesto, not only from the natural environment sector, but also sectors representing the built environment, sacred spaces, farming and countryside, and arts and creativity.

The RSPB chairs the Natural Environment Sector Partnership of the National Advisory Group to the new Council for Learning Outside the Classroom. This facilitates the two-way flow of operational guidance and discourse between providers of learning in the natural environment and the council. 

While committed to working with the Learning Outside the Classroom Council, we also believe the government must continue taking action to ensure that every child has regular access to learning outside the classroom in the natural environment.

We welcome the Health and Safety Executive’s recent policy statements tackling the health and safety myths about school visits and outdoor learning activities, and promoting a balanced benefit-risk approach to children’s play and leisure.

Learning for Sustainability

From early years to secondary level, children's well-being is nurtured by bringing them into frequent contact with the natural world, helping them to develop the values, knowledge and understanding that underpin sustainable lifestyles.

Part of this involves fostering an ethos of care for the natural environment and ensures today's conservation efforts remain sustainable.

We welcome the Government’s ambition in June 2011’s Natural Environment White Paper “to strengthen the connections between people and nature” and acknowledgement that the “study of science and geography ignites pupils’ curiosity about the world around them.”

Reviewing the National Curriculum

The current review of the National Curriculum in England presents significant opportunities to connect children with nature. While slimming the content of the curriculum, we believe the principles of ecology and biodiversity should be retained, for instance in science/biology and geography.

The Expert Panel for the National Curriculum Review has proposed the school curriculum should “Promote understanding of sustainability in the stewardship of resources locally, nationally and globally” (along with economic, cultural, social and personal development).

We support this proposal and the panel’s suggestion that “the government considers a recommendation that the school curriculum should also contribute to environmental ‘stewardship’.”


Practical information and guidance for schools and teachers. PDF, 933Kb.

Out-of-Classroom Learning guide

Practical information and guidance for schools and teachers. PDF, 321Kb.

Out-of-Classroom Learning guide - text only version

Identifying the benefits of out-of-classroom learning, recommendations and estimated costs. PDF, 127Kb.

Out of the Classroom: Into hearts and minds

Guidance for schools in England on a variety of ways to learn in, about and for the natural environment. PDF, 1.43Mb.

Top Tips for schools to engage with biodiversity