General Election - June 2017
In the run up to June's general election, the political parties' manifestos are being studied and examined. Once the result of the election is known, FSC will be busy investigating how we can engage the next set of politicians to demonstrate the value of what FSC does and where it can help meet political priorities and concerns.
For example, on 26th April a small number of MPs stayed for a Westminster Hall debate on the benefits of learning outside the classroom. Barry Sheerman (a long-time supporter of FSC) led the debate, highlighting the benefits of outdoor education. Mr Sheerman wants to challenge every MP in the next parliament to raise enough money to fund 10 schools in their constituency - enabling them to get out and learn in the countryside.
However the calling of a snap election has caused a number of the government's bills, committee inquiries and strategies to be delayed or even abandoned as part of the parliamentary wash-up period. Several government work streams of particular interest to FSC were halted:
- The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) long awaited 25 Year Plan - including a possible strategy for engaging children with nature.
- The obscure but potentially important Bat Habitats Regulation Bill, which is stuck in the Lords and as a private member’s bill and is unlikely to make it any further.
- The Inquiry by the Education Select Committee into the Purpose and Quality of Education. This was supposed to be a five year long project planning to look in depth at the role and benefits of outdoor learning. It might resume with a new committee, but there is no guarantee.
Additionally, an e-petition that asked the government to consider introducing a Natural History GCSE reached the 10,000 signatures it needed before parliament was dissolved. It will be for the new government to decide if it will follow the usual process of responding to the petition.
This could also be an opportunity for FSC to engage with a new minister on the wider issues around the decline of fieldwork and outdoor practical science by demonstrating how these areas develop STEM skills. This would address some concerns of the newly elected government, whose priorities are likely to include educational attainment in numeracy, literacy and the STEM skills needed for a 'post-Brexit' economy.
The calling of an early election also led to a scramble to get select committee inquiries wrapped up and published. One such curtailed inquiry was a joint initiative by the Education and Health Committees on the role of education in children and young people’s mental health. The committees recommended that the next government return to the issue in the next parliament and follow up on a promise to publish a green paper into young people’s mental health. Before closing down, the inquiry didn’t get much further than to air concerns about a lack of resources and focus on mental health issues.
A new in depth inquiry could give FSC the opportunity to highlight the benefits of learning outdoors on mental health, particularly for young people - as we believe a healthy environment is fundamental to the well-being and prosperity of our own and future generations.
See how FSC currently campaign for fieldwork and outdoor learning
More information on the election and the envrionment:
Where the main political parties stand on the environment
Election debate; the environment and climate change
Why the election matters for wildlife
Wednesday, May 24, 2017