Support voiced for Devon’s first Nature School

Monday 27th March 2017

DWT Nature School consultationPublic consultation for DWT Nature School

Proposals to open Devon’s first Nature School in Okehampton have been met with ‘positivity and support’ following a widespread public consultation conducted over the past two months.

The consultation included a public event held in the town on Friday 24 February. The charity which is behind the proposal, Devon Wildlife Trust, hosted a drop-in event at the Ockment Centre at which anyone interested in the proposal was invited to attend.

The event gave the public an opportunity to speak to Devon Wildlife Trust representatives, have their questions answered, look at reports and plans and give their feedback.

"A great success"

Peter Burgess, Director Development, Policy and Research at Devon Wildlife Trust, said: “The public consultation was a great success with over 100 members of the local community dropping in to find out more and ask questions. 49 people completed a questionnaire on the day – 42 respondents said they would choose a Nature School for their child.

“There has been a huge amount of positivity and support – it demonstrates communities in Okehampton would welcome a new addition to their educational offer. This chimes with the growing body of research which shows that children thrive, are happier and have improved attainment when the national curriculum is taught through nature and the local environment.”

Devon Wildlife Trust wants to open the Nature School that will accommodate 420 new pupils in a combined nursery and primary school aimed at children aged three to 11 years. The charity plans to use the free school model widely adopted elsewhere.

Outdoor learning and natural environment at the heart of education

Nature School Okehampton will be a ‘mainstream’ school following the National Curriculum. However, the charity says that it would put outdoor learning and the natural environment at the heart of a high quality education for local children.

Peter continued: “Okehampton was chosen as the proposed location of the school because Devon County Council has identified the town as an area where there is an urgent need for more primary school places. The town has a fascinating history and is surrounded by wonderful countryside, with rivers, parklands and woodlands, and all within a stone’s throw of Dartmoor National Park. I can’t think of a better place for a Nature School, and if our application is successful I really look forward to working with teachers and the local community to help ensure the school thrives.”

One of four Nature Schools in England

Devon Wildlife Trust’s plan for a Nature School is one of four being proposed by Wildlife Trust’s in England. The others include schools at Chippenham in Wiltshire, Nuneaton in Warwickshire and Smethwick in Birmingham.
The Okehampton Nature School is still at the planning stage and success will be subject to the success of an application to the Department of Education (DofE). This application is planned for spring 2017 with a proposed school opening estimated as 2018-19.

People who wish to register their support for plans to establish Devon’s first Nature School can do so at a dedicated website