Great outdoors for kids

Ross Montague
Ross Montague
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THERE have been no accidents resulting in insurance claims against the local council over children being educated outdoors.

Latest figures show zero action against or compensation paid out by Scottish Borders Council between 2009 and2011.

The information came to light following a freedom of information inquiry (FOI) request by a countryside charity in its campaign to increase outdoor education for children.

The FOI request by the Countryside Alliance Foundation, showed that last year across Britain there were 67 successful insurance claims against local education authorities concerning outdoor education resulting in £55,620 being paid in compensation by 16 councils. None involved the Borders.

The director of the foundation’s sister organisation, Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA), Ross Montague, said: “People shouldn’t hide behind the health and safety bogey because the reality is that injuries or people being sued are very few and far between.”

Mr Montague stopped short of saying there was an appetite for more outdoors education by Borders parents but said any events SCA’s education trust (SCAET) organised during the holidays have been supported by local parents taking their children along.

The foundation commissioned a YouGov poll in which more than 4,300 people in England were surveyed last year. It found 91 per cent of parents thought it important their children learn about the countryside at school, and 92 per cent thought their children would benefit from hands-on tuition in the countryside.

Three-quarters believed health and safety should not be a problem in providing lessons outdoors but 64 per cent thought it was the main barrier to schools taking pupils into the countryside.

Mr Montague added: “It’s good for children to learn outdoors because the outdoors can give a perspective on a lot of different curriculum subjects. In the Borders you can look at geology – and James Hutton, the father of geology is from the region – first hand in the field rather than in a class room.

“Farming is a business but you can introduce children to animals and teach them about accounts and business management. Also the outdoors experience will help some children to focus more than sitting in a classroom.”

Mr Montague said SCAET organises visits to farms and estates and takes the likes of gamekeepers and farmers into schools to talk to children.

“Even if we can’t get the children outside, sometimes hearing first hand from a real person will grab their attention more rather than being told something, reading it in a text book and the teacher saying something.”

SCA has helped launch a Scotland-wide programme, working with police, to take young people fishing.

“The officers said getting youngsters outdoors and giving them an interest was a great way of diverting them from potential criminality, “ said Mr Montague.

“There’s something about the outdoors and something about the countryside that grabs people.

He continued: “There’s a lot of good work done in the Borders, Buccleuch Estates, for example, has links with local primary schools.

“It’s worthwhile getting kids outside, letting them interact with livestock and meet real people on the ground.

“It’s a cliche but it’s a breath of fresh air from being stuck in the classroom or in front of a computer screen.”