THE growth in outdoor nurseries has been hailed as a hugely beneficial step in getting children away from computer and TV screens and into the great outdoors - whatever the weather.

But for many it has been seen as an option only for the middle-classes and those able to afford the expensive costs of private daycare.

Now children from disadvantaged backgrounds are to be given the same opportunity to spend their nursery years learning outside thanks to a Scottish family’s donation of half a million pounds to create new outdoor nurseries in some of the most deprived communities.

The £500,000 gift has been made anonymously to the charity Inspiring Scotland with a view to establishing a new social investment fund and social enterprises to run the nurseries.

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There are currently only 18 fully outdoor nurseries in Scotland, but the fund will support up to 3,000 children over a five-year period to access outdoor play and learning, concentrating on disadvantaged areas where there is limited or no outdoor nursery provision.

The Herald:

The fund’s use of a social enterprise model to set up outdoor nurseries in deprived communities is designed to have a major impact on the life chances of children from some of Scotland’s poorest communities.

Research from around the world demonstrates the enormous benefits to children’s health, wellbeing and development of getting outside to play and learn.

The right to play is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, while the Scottish Government has issued guidance titled 'Out to Play' designed to offer advice on building new outdoor nurseries, as well as encouraging indoor nurseries to get children outside more often, whatever the weather.

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Celia Tennant, Inspiring Scotland Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted by the generosity of this donation to support the health, wellbeing and development Scotland’s children.

“We believe that playing and learning outdoors, being active and having fun is a crucial part of a child’s development, and we want all children in Scotland to be able to do that.

"This funding will allow us to create daily life-enhancing outdoor experiences for children from some of Scotland’s most deprived neighbourhoods."

She added: "This new private funding is testament to a growing movement in Scotland to embrace outdoor learning and of a deepening understanding of the huge physical, mental, social and emotional benefits of playing outside from an early age.”

The Herald:

Initially, the fund will select and invest in five organisations to set up as social enterprises to run outdoor nurseries in different deprived communities. Inspiring Scotland will support the organisations to develop and grow so they can support more children in more areas.

Under Scottish Government plans, the amount of free childcare available will increase from 600 hours to 1,140 hours by August 2020 to help raise attainment and support parents to return to work.

Inspiring Scotland is a founding signatory, alongside Scottish Government, to Scotland’s Outdoor Play and Learning Coalition Position Statement, which was launched in October last year.

READ MORE: Outdoor play is key to healthy childhood development​

The statement asserts the health, wellbeing and educational benefits of playing and learning outdoors. It commits the signatories to help widen access to natural and communal spaces and to enrich urban spaces for children and families to play in.

The other 85 signatories include national organisations, local councils and academics as well as bodies as diverse as the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Glasgow Science Centre and NHS Health Scotland.