John Muir Award growing by 15% a year in Scottish schools

As the John Muir Trust celebrates another successful year in Scotland, Toby Clark, John Muir Award Scotland Manager, takes a closer look at what is being achieved in Scotland’s schools.

Cliff watch. © Keith Turner, Anderson High School

Cliff watch. © Keith Turner, Anderson High School

The John Muir Award encourages people from all backgrounds to enjoy, connect with, and care for wild places. It is the main engagement initiative of the John Muir Trust.

The Trust’s newly released data for academic year 2015-2016 shows that the number of school students and teachers achieving the John Muir Award has soared to almost 16,000 – a 15 per cent increase over the previous year. One in five of all these John Muir Awards achieved in schools (3,362) were gained by pupils experiencing some form of disadvantage.

The Trust is now working with 445 schools across Scotland (a figure that includes 45 per cent of all secondary schools) to provide the John Muir Award across all 32 local authority areas. The scheme is widely used, with families, youth groups, adult learners and prisons among the many groups to make use of it.

Dougie Pollok, SNH Biodiversity Communications Manager said: “Scottish Natural Heritage is delighted with the continued growth of the John Muir Award in Scotland’s schools. This environmental engagement scheme has proven to be popular with both teachers and pupils.As part of the Curriculum for Excellence, it promotes health and wellbeing and recognises achievement.”

Dougie continued: “We are also particularly heartened by the number of pupils taking part who experience some form of disadvantage. This contributes towards the Scottish Government aims of closing the poverty-related attainment gap.”

The John Muir Award in action at Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre. © Becky Duncan/Ardroy OEC

The John Muir Award in action at Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre. © Becky Duncan/Ardroy OEC

Rebecca Logsdon, John Muir Award Scotland Education Manager said: “These latest figures provide evidence that more schools, including those in deprived communities, are embracing a culture of outdoor learning.

“Teachers are feeling empowered to help children experience nature. Young people who get outside are feeling happier and healthier, more engaged with their learning and connected to their communities.

“This directly contributes towards an entitlement for Outdoor Learning for all learners, and ambitious Scottish Government goals, as set out in the Learning for Sustainability Vision 2030+ report.”

People and place

But it is not just teaching staff and pupils that benefit from getting involved with the John Muir Award – it’s wild places too. In 2015 the John Muir Trust carried out a monitoring exercise to identify the amount and type of activity carried out to meet the Conserve Challenge of the John Muir Award. The Trust found that last year schools in Scotland contributed to 101,680 hours of Conserve activity – valued at £487,931 (based on Heritage Lottery Fund figures).

Hebe planting at Gairloch High School. © Emma Smith

Hebe planting at Gairloch High School. © Emma Smith

This translated into 10,670m2 of wildflower planting and reseeding, 1,403 homes for nature either maintained or created,  including mini-beasts, newts and bats, 4,338 trees planted and 170m of hedges maintained or planted, and 4,600m2 of invasive non-native species cleared (e.g. rhododendron, Himalayan balsam).

Find out more

You can download a full report on how Scotland’s schools are helping to care for our natural environment through the John Muir Award here.

You can request the John Muir Award in Scotland’s schools report by contacting Rebecca Logsdon.

These figures only tell part of the story. Find out more about the quality, reach and range of work achieved by schools using the John Muir Award by viewing the Trust’s suite of on-line case studies.

Find out how the John Muir Award makes a difference and watch our short film .

The John Muir Trust receives key funding support from Scottish Natural Heritage to support the work of the John Muir Award.

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