Select Committee on Education and Skills Second Report

6 Conclusion

78. In recent years much of the discourse surrounding outdoor education has been focused on issues of risk and safety. Whilst this is clearly a very important issue, we believe that the debate has now become unbalanced and that not enough has been done to publicise the benefits of education outside the classroom. This is a great pity as there is a growing body of research evidence (supported amongst others by Ofsted) to show the potential of outdoor learning to raise standards in all schools, including amongst hard-to-reach children.

79. The decline of outdoor education impoverishes students' learning and represents a missed opportunity for curricular enrichment. Whilst the DfES has set up some small initiatives and voluntary organisations have contributed significantly, the sector is burdened by excessive bureaucracy, a low profile and a distorted perception of risk that is not supported by the facts. Despite this, many schools do continue to offer a varied and positive programme of events. This is an encouraging sign and leads us to conclude that a proper national strategy for outdoor learning would have a positive effect on many schools.

80. The DfES should act to spread good practice by setting up a network of champions at local, regional and national level, by supporting training for teachers and by conducting research into the benefits of different types of out-of-classroom learning. It should also do more to link outdoor education into its other initiatives such as the 'extended schools' programme and its wider youth services policies.

81. The DfES should publish a Manifesto for Outdoor Learning, giving all children a right to education outside the classroom. This Manifesto must be more than 'warm words'. It must be the expression of a coherent national strategy and should be accompanied by a package of measures and funding enabling change to be delivered across the areas of teacher training, access to facilities and curricular innovation.

82. In order to reverse the decline of education outside the classroom, the Department needs to commit appropriate resources to the sector. Further, the Department should review its current funding of activity centres, museums and galleries and other facilities offering educational services to schools. The current short-term funding structure is hampering development in these areas and the DfES should consider how these facilities can be supported over a longer period of time.

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