Plea for money as wildlife grant cut

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THE Manx Wildlife Trust has issued a plea for help after the government cut financial support for its education officer.

The Department of Education and Children has stopped a £15,000 annual grant.

It means that from September, the trust will start charging schools for visits, in order to cover some of the costs.

If there isn’t enough take up then MWT director Duncan Bridges has warned the role would be in ‘serious jeopardy’.

He said: ‘It’s left us in a very difficult situation. Our first option is to carry on providing the service but to charge individual schools per visit to cover the costs.’

Charges will be £116 per day or £60 per half day, which covers 75 to 80 per cent of the costs.

‘We can’t charge the full amount because we don’t think schools would be able to afford it,’ he said.

The MWT will review the situation at the end of the autumn term to see how much uptake there has been by schools.

‘If there isn’t enough we will be forced to sadly axe that particular service,’ he said.

The role of education officer has been in place for more than eight years. The position has mostly been held by Kath Smith.

It involves going into schools, mostly primary schools, and carrying out on-site visits three days a week.

Sessions, which include rock-pooling, plant identification and pond and river dipping, link in with parts of the Essentials for Learning curriculum involved with the environment and natural science as well as developing a greater understanding of the island. Last year, sessions were held for more than 2,200 children. The job also involves working with groups such as Brownies and Scouts, as well as adult groups including the Women’s Institute.

Mr Bridges said: ‘Without that [government] support schools are going to suffer considerably. They are not going to get the expertise and knowledge the post brings.’

He added: ‘Education is one of the cornerstones in our bid to raising awareness and getting people to understand the importance of the environment they live in and all issues that go along with that.’

Research shows children who gain that understanding at a young age carry it with them into later life.

He said: ‘We understand government is under pressure to reduce cuts and make savings but this seems the wrong way to go about doing it. To completely cut one service provision to us seems crazy.’

The total cost of the service is £17,500 – which includes travel, materials, equipment and hand outs.

Companies or individuals interested in providing any financial support to call 844432.

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