COVID-19: Outdoor learning programme helps 45,000 children in London

An environmental education programme run from the capital’s most iconic green spaces reached 45,000 young Londoners in the last two years – including vulnerable communities – during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Staff from the City of London Corporation delivered the Green Spaces, Learning Places outdoor learning workshops during three national lockdowns from Epping Forest, Hampstead Heath and West Ham Park.

They taught some of the capital’s most disadvantaged pupils from the London boroughs of Brent, Camden, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Newham and Tower Hamlets.

Staff delivered a ‘Green Talent’ programme, working with Grenfell families, young job seekers and people struggling in educationincluding pupil referral units, young carers and young refugeesto help them explore careers in the environmental and green spaces sector. Working with partner organisations such as the Refugee Council and Ambition, Aspire, Achieve, they supported young people to develop confidence, build key skills, and share in the health and wellbeing benefits of spending time in nature.

And a bespoke scheme, run for school children with special educational needs and disabilities, vulnerable youngsters, and the children of key workers, helped to boost confidence and wellbeing by exploring the natural world in a COVID-secure environment through den building, fire lighting and orienteering. To overcome barriers caused by the pandemic, activities were designed to include people with limited access to resources. This included outdoor activity sheets for financially disadvantaged children delivered in parcels from local food banks, schools receiving videos to use in playgrounds and outdoor nature classes carried out in groups of six.

The City Corporation protects 11,000 acres of green space in the capital, including Epping Forest, Hampstead Heath and West Ham Park - and over 200 smaller sites in the Square Mile.

Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Open Spaces and City Gardens Committee, Oliver Sells QC, said:

This programme has been a huge success and given us some excellent insight into how children across the capital can be supported.

“Being outdoors has huge benefits to our mental and physical health. We have been working closely with families from more deprived areas who have limited access to green spaces and helping them to get involved in environmental learning.

“We will now look to develop the programme and help even more families access nature and gain key life skills.”

Chair of the City Corporation’s Education Board, Caroline Haines, said:

“I’m proud of how we were able to continue to run this scheme during the pandemic, making a huge difference to people who were facing such a challenging time.

“Creative learning in the outdoors provides an important developmental experience, an introduction to new skills and opens doors.

“That’s why I’m excited to continue this work and reach many more thousands of young Londoners every year.”

Jonny Boux the CEO of Ambition, Aspire, Achieve in Newham (programme in West Ham Park), said:

“The learning resources and activity sheets have been greatly appreciated by the families, children and young people we have been supporting during these challenging and unprecedented times.

“We shared them as part of the weekly food and activity packs which we had been delivering to the doorsteps of some of our most vulnerable children and young people during lockdown.

“Many of those we support do not have a garden or easy access to green spaces and have really been struggling during this period.”

Kate Frood, Headteacher, Eleanor Palmer Primary School, in Camden (Programme in Hampstead Heath), said:

“It was fantastic to get outside, to a different – and very special space – and to do something real, hands on and outdoors in these constrained times.

“The learning – intended and otherwise – was fantastic. No screens, no walls… Magic.”

The City of London Corporation developed the Green Spaces, Learning Places programme in response to a growing consensus that spending time in nature is beneficial to physical and mental health, and a concern over health and wellbeing inequalities as people in deprived areas of London face more barriers than most to accessing nature.

The learning team target programmes to reach those who could benefit the most, including school children growing up in poverty, young people excluded from mainstream schooling, and local people from communities that are under-represented in visiting green spaces.


Notes to editors

About the City of London Corporation

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK.

The City Corporation funds its open spaces with over £29 million a year. These sites, most of which are charitable trusts, are run at little or no cost to the communities that they serve.

They include important wildlife habitats, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and National Nature Reserves. They are protected from being built on by special legislation


Kristina Drake| Media Officer, Public Services

City of London Corporation

M: 07710860884

D: 020 7332 1125