School children from some of the most deprived and marginalised areas of Oxfordshire have become the latest cohort of learners to take part in an environmental education experience, thanks to funding from award-winning construction company Beard.

The programme, which is designed and delivered by charity Earth Trust, aims to connect disadvantaged children with the natural world through exciting outdoor experiences. Access to such trips has been extremely limited in recent years, as schools battle against tighter budgets and access to resources, including staffing.

With the pandemic having exacerbated some of these barriers, many of the pupils involved in the programme – particularly those in Year 3 classes – have never been on a school trip, or even visited a large green space.

The latest cohort has just recently attended its first day of the programme, with the Earth Trust working closely with teachers to align practical experiences with classroom learning, in order to maximise the educational value of the programme.

The programme delivers over three years with a £10,000 funding from the Beard Charitable Foundation and a donation by Lucy Group – an Oxford-based electrical and real estate business. It covers transport and 60 percent of the overall programme cost, aiming to reduce the barriers for schools and enabling their learners to access the charity’s valuable green spaces and outdoor learning experiences.
2023 is the first full year of the programme, with three classes accessing two visits each year for three years. This allows those 90 students to build on their learning and to develop a greater understanding and appreciation of nature and the environment.

Mark Beard, chairman of Beard, said:

“Regardless of circumstance or background, every child should have the opportunity to learn about the environment and explore the natural world around them. This fantastic initiative by Earth Trust is not just important in educating young people but empowering them to become future stewards of our environment and planet.

“The climate of the last few years has significantly reduced the opportunities for young people to have these valuable experiences. We are delighted to partner with Lucy Group to support the work of Earth Trust and create those opportunities for disadvantaged children in the region.”

 

Jayne Manley, Earth Trust CEO, added:

“School trips to exciting locations are often some of the brightest highlights and longest lasting childhood memories. Access to natural green space and outdoor learning builds confidence, aids learning and skills and engages everyone equally. Yet those from disadvantaged areas of Oxfordshire have very limited access to environmental education experiences, a problem exacerbated during the pandemic.

“We are very grateful that with the support of Beard we can work with resource-stretched schools to provide valuable outdoor experiences to young people from all social backgrounds, enabling them to become eco-conscious and play a vital role in society in the future.”

The Beard Charitable Foundation was formed by the Beard family in 2016, to mark 125 years in business. The foundation aims to support the Beard family and Beard employees in their charitable and community pursuits. Beard is a family-run construction company that is proud of its people first ethos and its longstanding commitment to supporting the communities where it works and investing in the next generation.

The donation follows Beard’s involvement in the construction of Earth Lab, a stimulating and interactive educational space which has been designed in sympathy with the surrounding woodland landscape. Construction of Earth Lab took place in 2020-21 and the new facility welcomed its first students in June 2021.

 

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