YHA has welcomed proposals in the Landscapes Review for ‘a night in a national landscape for every child.’
James Blake, the Chief Executive here at YHA said: “I am delighted to see the proposals in this Review. It highlights the fact that we have lost sight of the importance of our landscapes in the lives of young people. This is an opportunity to link National Parks with arts and heritage and focus on access for all. We know that children and young people who benefit most from a stay in the outdoors are consistently those that have least access. We must work together to ensure this really means every child.”
The proposal for a residential experience for every schoolchild was made in the Landscapes review, an independent review commissioned by former environment secretary Michael Gove and published on 21 September 2019.
The Review, led by the writer Julian Glover, calls for Parks, which cover nearly a quarter of England, to have a clear national mission to reverse environmental decline, assisted by 1,000 new rangers. Amongst a number of proposals, it recommends that every child should be given the chance to visit the parks including an overnight stay.
James added: “The Review’s proposal is what we were founded for nearly 90 years ago to help all, but especially young people, to a greater knowledge, use and love of the countryside – and it is what we stand by today.
“The proposal to ensure every child has a residential stay in a National Park is a bold ambition but one we believe is achievable with support, collaboration across education, the third sector and central government funding. We look forward to playing our part”
The opportunity to have adventures in the outdoors is vitally important to developing young people’s confidence, resilience and ambition for the future. Studies show that just 5 minutes of ‘green exercise’ can improve a child’s mental wellbeing.
We have 64 youth hostels in or close by all National Parks in England and Wales. Over the last 12 months 147,232 under 26s have stayed in YHAs in National Parks, accounting for nearly 40% of the visits by under 26s to our network of 153 properties.
“We have the evidence to support the fact that residential experiences in rural landscapes are transformational and make a significant difference, particularly to those young people living in challenging circumstances. In light of this review, I call on the government to work with us and our partners to ensure we deliver this aspiration,” he added.
The Review uses the example of how many children in Brighton have not visited the South Downs National Park despite it being on their doorstep. We’re working with a cluster of Brighton schools to address this. Last year a group visited YHA South Downs for a residential to connect them to the National Park. The work is now expanding by supporting an outdoors worker in school to help children and their families develop confidence to use outdoor spaces. This year even more children will visit their local national park with us and next year they will be visiting National Parks further away from home.
Focusing on increasing access is the core priority within our new 10-year strategy, which it will launch in 2020 as part of the charity’s 90th anniversary celebrations. We will work closely with schools, further education providers and youth charities to widen our reach and impact, with a particular focus on rural and cultural landscapes.
Anyone interested in the future of YHA is invited to ‘Join in the conversation’ via the our website.