Shropshire charity welcomes moves to ease restrictions on spending time outdoors

The UK’s leading outdoor education charity has welcomed the Government’s plans to increase the amount of time people can now spend outside, saying it will improve the nation’s wellbeing.

The Field Studies Council (FSC), which has its HQ in Shrewsbury and provides environmental learning to children and adults, says easing of the restrictions around daily outdoor exercise and recreation will enable more people to re-connect with nature.

Commenting on the Government’s latest coronavirus guidance, FSC Chief Executive Mark Castle said: “The easing of restrictions around exercise and outdoor recreation is good news for many, particularly those living in urban areas where it is more difficult to access the countryside from the doorstep.

“Now more than ever it is important for people to get outdoors into the natural world to maintain health and happiness but we must all make sure we are acting responsibly and sticking to the social distancing guidelines to avoid a second wave of infections.

“Where possible we would encourage families to combine their daily exercise activities with outdoor learning such as enjoying a nature walk together, a scavenger hunt or even building their own wild obstacle course.

“This will not only improve wellbeing and mental health but will also help children to continue to develop and learn new skills.”

The charity was forced to shut its network of field study centres across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland in March when the Government placed the UK in lockdown.

However, FSC tutors have been continuing to support teachers, students and parents with environmental learning through its programme of online fieldwork lessons, delivered in partnership with global education provider Encounter Edu.

Throughout April more than 370,000 schoolchildren of all ages took part the charity’s live geography and science-based fieldwork lessons via Youtube. Later this month it will also host two professional development live lessons for newly and recently qualified geography and science teachers and those students undertaking a PGCE.

Mr Castle added: “It’s essential that we continue to support schools and children with essential outdoor learning even though schools and field centres like our own remain closed.

“Taking students out of their home classroom whether that be the bedroom, home-office, living room or dining table is absolutely essential if we want to continue engaging young people in the natural world.

“Recent surveys suggest that people have more appreciation of the natural environment now than before the pandemic and this is something we want to build on as a charity.

“There are not many upsides to be taken from the current situation but if a lasting legacy of the pandemic is that more Britons regularly spend more time outdoors walking, cycling, learning and engaging with nature then this will at least be one positive outcome.”

The FSC welcomes around 150,000 pupils a year to its centres and May and June would usually be its busiest time of the year.

The organisation recently featured on BBC Countryfile to talk about the impact of COVID-19 on its outdoor education provision and the industry as a whole.

For further information about FSC’s #fieldworklive lessons and to access associated learning resources and to register for the upcoming CPD #fieldworklive lessons visit https://www.field-studies-council.org/fsc-fieldworklive/.

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