“Deeply worrying” drop in time children spending outdoors

Figures released by the government this week have shown a noticeable drop in the amount of time children are spending outside.

The Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment by Natural England showed that over the period 2018/19, 74% of children spent time outside, down from 81% in 2013/14.

Despite the rural nature of much of the eastern region, only 29% of children in Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire Essex and Cambridgeshire spent time in the countryside in the last month. Only children in London spent less time in the countryside.

The report found that the “sharpest declines were recorded in relation to urban green spaces and amongst those children in lower socio-economic groups”. In 2013/14, across England, 71% of children from the poorest households visited urban greenspaces in the previous month, dropping to 61% by 2018/19. [1]

Responding to the figures, Green Party Member of the European Parliament for the East of England Catherine Rowett, commented:

“It is hugely important that children from all backgrounds get to experience the outdoors. Outdoor play in the fresh air is so important in a child’s development: it is essential for improving their immune systems, educational achievement, imagination, and respiratory and mental health.

“The figures released today, especially showing how children from the most deprived backgrounds are unable to access the outdoors, are deeply troubling.”

“It is tragic that the needs of the young are being so gravely neglected by this blinkered and Brexit-focused government with its fantasy myths about how to make our society happy and heal the country’s ills.

“What we need is serious attention to what’s going wrong across all social and economic groups, but most of all for those born through no fault of their own into situations of poverty and deprivation in what is said to be one of the wealthiest and most beautiful countries of the world.

“England is meant to be a green and pleasant land. About 90% of the country is still not built on [2]. No effort should be spared in ensuring that schools and nurseries provide forested environments and open green spaces for play.”

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