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.