Farmers in England are being given the chance to teach children about life down on the farm by applying for funds to install facilities for school and youth groups.
Educational access capital funding through the Higher Level Stewardships scheme (HLS) is available to help provide items to improve visitor access to farms such as classrooms, washroom facilities and access furniture such as kissing gates.
Successful applicants will also be able eligible for an annual base payment and revenue payments for up to 25 educational visits per year. There are currently over 1,000 farmers in England supplementing their income by offering educational visits.
Ian Fugler, Natural England’s Director of Land Management said: ‘‘Opening the farm up to groups as an educational resource is a great opportunity for children to experience life on a farm, learn about wildlife, where their food comes from and how the land is managed. These visits can make a real difference, especially for children from urban areas who would not otherwise have the chance to visit the countryside or see how a working farm operates - this funding will enable more to follow in their footsteps.’’
Andy Bragg of West Town farm near Exeter said: “We’ve been running educational visits at the farm for years, and HLS educational access funding has helped us to fund these visits. It’s great to be able to show visitors around the farm and to help them experience that connection between themselves, their food and the countryside. However the facilities here did need improving, so the capital grant fund has enabled us to build a classroom and toilet block, and to provide interpretation boards and a tractor-trailer. We hope this will open up the farm to many more people of all ages and help us to run even better visits.”
The evidence of the demand for more educational visits to farms is clear - 97% of teachers believe it’s important for pupils to learn about the countryside in the National Curriculum and 98% believe the countryside could play a greater role in cross–curricular learning. Yet less than half of all children aged between 5-16 yrs went on a school trip to the countryside in 2008. 
Farmers in HLS who can demonstrate the potential for their farms to host high quality educational visits for school children or care farming clients should contact their local Natural England Land Management Adviser by 30 June 2012 to apply for the funding.
Visitmyfarm.org gives helpful information to farmers interested in hosting educational visits. Full information about Educational Access is available on the Natural England website. A new process to facilitate the targeting of access capital item funding in relation to educational access sites is detailed, including regional targeting maps.
Educational access Capital grants assist with creating on-farm classroom facilities, toilets/washrooms, farm trailers for transporting school visits to points of interest on the farm, providing access furniture such as kissing gates for permissive access routes. The scheme can also fund farm visit accreditation through the Countryside Educational Visits Accreditation Scheme (CEVAS).
The rate of grant available will depend on the work being undertaken. For example access furniture has set grant rates, educational access facilities such as classrooms can receive up to 80 per cent of the total cost subject to a ceiling of £50,000 for classroom facilities and £25,000 for toilets/washing facilities. CEVAS training can be paid in full.
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