Memorandum submitted by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

 

Summary

1. The RSPB believes that all children should be entitled to experience outdoor learning as an integral component of their education. The Government launched the Manifesto for Learning Outside the Classroom on 28 November 2006, with the Secretary of State saying that it 'should be at the heart of every school's curriculum and ethos.' The Manifesto encourages schools to report on provision through Ofsted schools' self-evaluation forms. Ofsted has previously found that 'outdoor education gives depth to the curriculum and makes an important contribution to students' physical, personal and social education.' Barriers preventing inclusion are economic deprivation (particularly in inner city schools), lack of confidence and experience amongst teachers to undertake trips, and the perceived accident and litigation culture. The RSPB believes that Government action in monitoring and evaluating out-of-classroom learning should be strengthened, and encourages Ofsted to make reporting and evaluating learning outside the classroom provision a mandatory requirement of schools' self-evaluation forms.

 

Introduction

2. Paragraph 65 of Ofsted's Annual Report 2004/05 states: 'In subjects such as geography, history and art, fieldwork and visits to museums and galleries provide opportunities to enrich learning and can have a profound effect on pupils. Many schools continue to use outside visits, but others are finding it difficult. Generally, enrichment work of this kind is patchy. Variations relate to cost, inconvenience and risk, and there are some indications of increasing reservations about trips.'

 

3. The Real World Learning (RWL) Partnership was founded in 2003 by the RSPB, along with the Field Studies Council, National Trust, PGL Travel Ltd., and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. It now also includes The Wildlife Trusts, Association for Science Education, Geographical Association, Historical Association, Outdoor Education Advisers' Panel, and Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers). The partnership believes that all children should be entitled to experience outdoor learning as an integral component of their school career and a key step in ensuring this full inclusion is monitoring and evaluating out-of-classroom learning by Ofsted.

 

The barriers to education outside the classroom

4. The RWL Partnership organisations have identified barriers preventing children from experiencing out-of-classroom learning. These were subsequently endorsed by the Education and Skills Committee in their 'Education Outside the Classroom' Report (February 2005). Surveys showed economic deprivation (particularly in inner cities) as a major constraint for some schools, as well as a lack of confidence and experience amongst teachers to undertake trips. Teachers also identified the accident and litigation culture as a significant barrier.

 

The role of Government and the Manifesto for Learning Outside the Classroom

5. By fully addressing these issues, the Government would not only deliver on learning outside the classroom, but also contribute to other priorities such as health, active citizenship and social inclusion.

 

6. On 28 November, Alan Johnson MP, Secretary of State for Education and Skills, launched the Manifesto for Learning Outside the Classroom, stating that it 'should be at the heart of every school's curriculum and ethos.' One of the measures announced alongside the Manifesto was encouraging schools to 'report on learning outside the classroom provision through Ofsted schools' self-evaluation form.'

 

7. The Manifesto also states that 'if all young people were given these opportunities we believe it would make a significant contribution to raising achievement in national curriculum subjects, in the five outcomes of Every Child Matters and in the expectations of Sustainable Schools.'

 

The role of Ofsted

8. Ofsted obviously play a key role in delivering the aims of the Manifesto, and have acknowledged the importance of outdoor education, stating that '[it] gives depth to the curriculum and makes an important contribution to students' physical, personal and social education.'

 

9. Paragraph 377 of Ofsted's Annual Report 2005/06 states: 'In most schools, pupils only touched on education for sustainable development issues. The coverage of the issues tended to be implicit, piecemeal, uncoordinated and lacking in vision.' By supporting out-of-classroom learning, Ofsted would also assist Sustainable Schools.

 

Conclusion

10. The RSPB therefore believes that out-of-classroom learning and sustainable schools self-evaluation ('s3') should be made mandatory elements of Ofsted schools' self-evaluation forms (SEFs). Out-of-classroom learning should also be inspected by Ofsted through 'themed' inspections, both for school inspections and initial teacher training colleges. These measures would raise its status, recognise existing good practice and provision, and provide benchmark data on participation to measure the success of the Manifesto for Learning Outside the Classroom. In the context of Ofsted's self-evaluation inspection methods, this would represent negligible additional cost to Ofsted, or could be funded from within their existing 220m budget.

 

 

December 2006