Outdoor learning, within Learning for Sustainability, is already embedded in CfE, in our GTCS standards and in school inspections. Learning in the outdoors can make significant contributions to literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing.
In order to enhance the outdoor aspect of the curriculum and comply with the most recent government guidelines there are a number of ways Outdoor Learning can support education and build a richer curriculum within the refreshed CfE narrative.
Below you will find links to a host of guidance and support resources, including a growing bank of practical lessons for teaching CfE outdoors.
1. The Importance of the Outdoors as an approach to learning
Learning Outdoors complements and extends classroom based learning and can also be used to promote wider achievement. The outdoor environment has proven benefit for learning by giving relevance and depth to the curriculum in ways that are difficult to achieve indoors. We know that children and young people are more likely to be engaged in learning outdoors, not only will this raise attainment, it will help them make connections experientially, therefore facilitating their development into confident and responsible citizens.
The benefits of active and outdoor learning in terms of education, physical and mental health & wellbeing, are well documented and will have a long-term positive impact on pupils, families, staff and the wider school community. We can capitalise on learners’ potential to develop as they experience new challenges.
Entitlement – Education Scotland’s ‘Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning’ set out a vision for all schools and educational settings to provide frequent and progressive outdoor learning opportunities which are clearly part of the curriculum. These opportunities need to be regular and sustainable.
Safety – The outdoor learning space naturally facilitates room for physical distancing of both staff and pupils, reducing airborne and surface transmission risk of infection. A move from a’classroom‘ to a ‘learning space’ model for CfE delivery, enables physical distancing alongside high quality learning and teaching both in school grounds, local spaces, and home environments.
School Estates – On average over 50% of a school estate is outdoors, in many cases these environments are not yet being maximised to their proven potential. Outdoor learning space naturally lends itself to becoming a high-quality teaching space that can be utilised or transformed relatively quickly and at reasonably low cost.
Engagement in Learning – The outdoor environment has proven benefit for learning by giving relevance and depth to the curriculum in ways that are difficult to achieve indoors, including opportunities for study in the local, natural and built environments. We know that children and young people are more likely to be engaged in learning outdoors, not only will this raise attainment, it will help them make connections experientially, therefore facilitating their development into confident and responsible citizens.
Health & Wellbeing – The benefits of active and outdoor learning in terms of education, physical and mental wellbeing, are well documented and will have a long-term positive impact on pupils, families, staff and the wider school community. We can capitalise on learners’ potential to develop as they experience new challenges.
Life-long Skills & Attitudes – The outdoor environment encourages skills such as problem solving and negotiating risk. Learning outdoors contributes to our National objective of ‘creating a more successful country’ in that it facilitates children and young people becoming:
healthier – learning outdoors can lead to lifelong recreation;
safer & stronger – outdoor activities can span social divisions and provide opportunities to assess and manage risk;
greener – the outdoor environment is the ideal setting to promote understanding of global sustainability issues;
wealthier & fairer – the outdoor environment offers opportunities for leadership, and allows children and young people to showcase a wide range of skills and abilities which are not always visible in the classroom, in turn increasing engagement and raising attainment.
Interdisciplinary Learning – With an innovative, responsive and flexible approach to learning and teaching, a significant part of the curriculum can be taught outdoors. New technologies will add further value by allowing learners to review and share their outdoor learning experiences.
Outdoor Education Centres Fit for the Future (issued 14 Aug 2020) – here
Outdoor Learning Research Benefits – here
2. Scottish Government Guidance
The Scottish Government has produced a framework for safe practice in offsite visits and has recently issued guidance on school visits during COVID 19.
‘NEW’ Going Out There: Scottish Framework for Safe Practice in Off Site Visits – here
SG Guidance for school Visits and Trips – here
SG Reducing Risks in Schools Guidance – here
3. Education Scotland Guidance
Education Scotland’s ‘Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning’ has set out a vision for all schools and educational settings to provide frequent and progressive outdoor learning opportunities which are clearly part of the curriculum. These opportunities need to be regular and sustainable.
Support from Outdoor Education Centres (updated Dec 2020) – here
Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning – here
E’s & O’s Outside – here
Learning For Sustainability – here
HGIOS 4 has specific references to OL & LfS – here
SCOTLAND’S revised CURRICULUM FOR EXCELLENCE Putting learners at the heart of education – here
Outdoor Learning in the National Improvement Hub – here
4. Other National Outdoor & Off Site Visit Guidance
Sportscotland – Latest sport and physical activity guidance – guidance
Guidance and Support for Community-Based Youth Work During Covid-19 – here
SQA, First Aid – here
NHS – Travel Health Guidance for Schools – here
HSE – Risk & Outdoor Learning – here
HSE – Busting Health & Safety Myths – here
Loose Parts Play – here
Fire Guidance – SAPOE (Scottish Advisory Panel for Outdoor Education) – here
Fire Guidance – Outdoor & Woodland Learning Scotland – here
Early Years – Realising the Ambition: Being Me – here
Early Years – My world Outdoors, Care Inspectorate Guidance – here
Early Years – Space to Grow: Early learning, childcare and out of school care services: design guidance – here
5. East Lothian Council Guidance
August 2021 Update
Off Site Visits
The Scottish Government published updated guidance on Friday 20 August 2021, but it should be noted that ELC guidance for some activities is to take a more cautious approach and this ELC guidance will prevail for all East Lothian Education Provision, not just schools.
This guidance will be kept under review and may change in accordance with changes to Scottish Government Guidance.
All Off-Site Visits will fall into one of the 4 categories below.
Routine and Expected Visits can continue as they did last term. These visits will generally be to local venues, involve easily managed activities, happen on a regular basis, and be completed within normal session times. Short Local excursions which promote Outdoor Learning (e.g. local park or greenspace) are encouraged. These can take place if suitably risk assessed and authorised on EVOLVE
Day Visits can continue as they did last term subject to appropriate risk assessment, appropriate travel arrangements, relevant destination COVID protocols adhered to and EVOLVE authorisation obtained.
Residential Visits, including any form of overnight stay regardless of the type of accommodation, are not permitted at this time. These may or may not involve an external provider. No planning or approaches to providers for provisional bookings may take place until further notice.
Overseas It has been decided by the Council Management Team that there will be no trips abroad by East Lothian Council schools in the session 2021/22.
Can you please ensure that every member of staff in your school or service is made aware of this position, particularly any staff that lead trips or may be considering leading a trip in the future.
Use of Volunteers/ other ELC services to support Outdoor Learning
Both ELC and the Scottish Government are encouraging schools to make good use of local outdoor venues and we appreciate, in many cases, this is not possible without the use of additional support from Volunteers. It has therefore been agreed that parents and other volunteers (including other ELC services) can help with making use of local off site spaces. To ensure that these volunteers are aware of the scope and implications of this role a short (20 min) online briefing for volunteers has been developed. Any non-school staff working with groups should complete this prior to any outdoor sessions. Briefing information can be found here – here
Any bookings made by a school/establishment involving a financial transaction are NOT covered by any ELC insurance cancellation policy. This means any monies requested from parents/ school fund etc. in the event of cancellation, would need to be repaid to the parents/ school fund from the current school budget, if the provider does not refund the full amount. Even if the provider gives a COVID guarantee, we have now learned this is not necessarily legally binding and money will not necessarily be refunded.
Where any cost to the establishment or parents will be incurred please contact Liz Brookes or Judith Wood for further guidance.
Transporting pupils in a mini bus (self drive) – Transporting pupils within the school day is acceptable if it is deemed to be essential to the young persons education. An appropriate risk assessment must be carried out. At the advice of ELC transportation, both Outdoor Learning minibuses have been fitted with screens between the driver and passengers and the driver and front passenger.
Transporting pupils by hired bus/coach – Transporting pupils within the school day is acceptable if it is deemed to be essential to the young persons education. An appropriate risk assessment must be carried out. Local transport providers include…
* Eves Coaches, based in Dunbar www.eveinfo.co.uk
* Prentice of Haddington www.prentice.info
* AC’s Taxis based in Tranent, Preston Pans & Musselburgh (who have big buses too) www.acstaxis.co.uk
Public Transport – not recommended
Any venues selected for Off Site Visits are ideally sole occupancy or big enough to have no contact with others/ general public. They must also comply with current COVID education guidance including cleaning etc.
Please note there are some activities allowed by Scottish Government but not ELC.
The initial planning process of any Off-Site Visit/ Trip must include the initiation of an EVOLVE form with the basic details. This will highlight potential/ planned off-site visits to the Local Authority, enabling an oversight of future trips and the ability to advise at an early stage.
If you have any queries please contact either Liz Brookes or Judith Wood in the first instance.
ELC Guidance – Safety and Good Practice in Managing Off Site Visits – here
All Generic Risk Assessments for Off Site Visits (and an editable template) – here
Sample Letter to Parents – here
Parental Consent Form (PC1) – here
Sample Bikeability Letter to Parents – here
ELC – Photo/Video Consent Form (11 yrs and younger) – here
ELC – Photo/Video Consent Form (12 yrs and older) – here
Equality Act and school trips, updated April 2014 – here
First Aid – COVID update – here
Home Stay Guidance – here
Transport Guidance – here
ELC Insurance documentation
ELC Employers Liability Insurance (2021/22) – Certificate
ELC Public Liability Insurance (2021/22) – Letter
6. Advice and support from ELC Outdoor Learning Service
Safety – continue to provide advice about safe practice of all aspects of outdoor learning. Currently for school grounds, local area & home learning and eventually back to UK & world wide travel. All advice is based on the SG Guidance, SG ‘Going Out There’ framework, NGB guidelines and ELC guidance, including advice on risk assessments and ratios with adaptation to comply with current COVID guidelines.
School Improvement Planning – advice on how to develop an outdoor progressive programme, through CfE delivery, specifically focusing on Numeracy, Literacy and Health & wellbeing.
School Ground / Local Area advice – advice on how to maximise the use of school grounds, community and local green-spaces to facilitate learning whilst physical distancing restrictions remain in place. Advice on accessing green-space within walking distance of all schools across East Lothian – including the safest routes to access these.
Delivery to pupils- advice on what activities would be appropriate for a given learning intention to teach in the outdoors complementing classroom work, and the logistics of delivering high quality teaching safely and confidently.
We have a number of Pupil Programmes running see here for details.
Additional Support Needs – help with planning and adaptation of learning activities to ensure access for ALL, inclusion and equity whilst maintaining a whole class approach.
Care-experienced / Vulnerable/ Disengaged / Challenging Young People – outdoor learning is an approach often used with these young people to re-engage them with education and or develop skills for work. East Lothian has a pool of associate outdoor instructors and supply teaching staff ready to take on projects of this kind.
When planning and presenting new ways of working remember a classroom does not need to have walls. The outdoors is an approach to learning which can be incorporated at appropriate times into every area of the curriculum. Consider using alternative terminology:
A move from ‘classroom’ to ‘learning space’
A move from ‘Outdoor Activity’ to ‘Outdoor Lesson’
A move from ‘Outdoor Learning’ to ‘Learning Outdoors’
e.g. Learning numeracy outdoors
7. Networks for Outdoor Learning
There is already a wide network of outdoor professionals throughout Local Authorities & Independent schools who form SAPOE (Scottish Advisory Panel for Outdoor Education), whose role is to advise, support & deliver Outdoor Learning. East Lothian is also part of the NNOL (National Network of Outdoor Learning), made up of organisations including representatives from Government, Councils, professional bodies, schools and the third sector, who support and deliver Outdoor Learning across Scotland.
ELLO (East Lothian Learning Outdoors) is East Lothian’s networking group for communication, sharing best practice and maximising the potential for learning outdoors. If you would like to represent your school on ELLO then please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your details.
8. Staff Training / CLPL – Outdoor Learning
Online and face to face training will enhance staff competence, build confidence and encourage creativity. New and adapted modular courses are available both locally and nationally.
Two of the key initial OL training modules can be found here
All OL training courses can be found here ELC OLS Training Courses – open to all
The following awards are delivered and supported by the Outdoor Learning Service across East Lothian Council primary and secondary schools. A number of them can be used to deliver SQCF points:
Primary school awards :
- Hi5 Awards – Summary Info here
- John Muir Award
- Junior Award Scheme for Schools
- Play on Pedals
- Bikeability Scotland
- National Indoor Climbing Award Scheme
- British Canoe Union Paddle Awards – Start and Discover
- National Navigation Award Scheme – Outdoor Discovery Award
Secondary school awards:
- Youth Achievement Awards – Summary Info here
- Dynamic Youth Awards – Summary Info here
- John Muir Award
- Saltire Award
- Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme
- Junior Award Scheme for Schools
- Bikeability Scotland
- National Indoor Climbing Award Scheme
- British Canoe Union Paddle Awards – Start , Discover and Explore
- Orienteering Young Leader Award
- Mountain Training Hill and Mountain Skills
- National Navigation Award Scheme – Bronze and Silver Navigator Awards
10. Resources to Purchase & School Grounds Advice
Following contain links to suppliers of recommended equipment and books:
11. Teaching Resources – Outdoor Learning Lessons
Below you’ll find links to quality teaching ideas and resources to minimise the ‘prep’ time for school staff.
- Just for ELC – Note these are only accessible to ELC education staff – you need to be logged in to your Edubuzz account to access. Please don’t request access – just ensure you are logged into your Edubuzz account and you will see it!
- ELC Outdoor Learning Service Outdoor Learning Lesson ideas – a Google Drive full of outdoor lessons for early years, primary and secondary
- OL Lesson Plan Programme – Numeracy – Lesson plans, CfE Es, Os and activities to deliver a progressive block of First and Second Levels Numeracy lessons outdoors
- OL Lesson Plan Programme – Literacy – Lesson plans, CfE Es, Os and activities to deliver a progressive block of First and Second Levels Literacy lessons outdoors
- New!! OL Lesson Plan Programme – Maps and a Sense of Space – Lesson plans, CfE Es, Os and activities to deliver a progressive block of First and Second Levels maps/place lessons outdoors
- New!! OL Lesson Plan Programme – The Water Cycle – Lesson plans, CfE Es, Os and activities to deliver a progressive block of First and Second Levels water cycle lessons outdoors
- ELC Outdoor Learning Service e-Learning – all our e-learning category of blog posts on our Edubuzz website (Absolutely anyone can get here 🙂 )
12. Thought provoking Outdoor Learning related short videos
Some videos worth watching to make us think about Learning Outdoors
Could you be suffering from ‘plant blindness’? – video
13. Case Studies & Practitioner Enquiry – Outdoor Learning
What can be done with out of the box thinking?…