Select Committee on Education and Skills Second Report

2 Introduction

1. The Committee announced its inquiry into Education Outside the Classroom on 22 September 2004. We took evidence on a wide range of outdoor learning experiences, from lessons held within the school grounds to residential expeditions abroad, and the place of outdoor learning in the curriculum from the Foundation Stage to Higher Education.

2. During our inquiry, we examined the barriers that deter schools from teaching outside the classroom. These range from the perception of risk associated with school trips, through the resources and curriculum time available for out-of-classroom learning and for teacher training, to the availability and cost of facilities and activity centres. We analyse these difficulties in this report. We also consider how schools could best be encouraged to improve and expand their outdoor education and what action the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) could take in this area. Options include the publication of a 'Manifesto for Outdoor Learning' (suggested by departmental officials, amongst others) or the creation of a curricular entitlement to a certain number of hours outside the classroom. We also consider the funding implications of these alternatives.

3. In the course of our inquiry, we took oral evidence from the Outward Bound Trust; the Real World Learning Campaign; the RSPB; the Field Studies Council; the Secondary Heads Association; the National Association of Head Teachers; the NASUWT; the NUT; Ofsted; Ms Helen Williams and Mr Stephen Crowne, DfES officials and Mr Stephen Twigg MP, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, DfES. We received written evidence from a wide range of organisations and individuals, a selection of which is printed with this report. We received a very large number of submissions in connection with this inquiry, which is a measure of the diversity of the sector and the strength of feeling on this subject. We have used the information and opinions expressed in these memoranda to inform the conclusions and recommendations of this report.

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