This Committee's predecessor, the Education and Skills Committee, published its Report Education Outside the Classroom in 2005. Since then, a very strong body of evidence has been established to show the benefits to pupils of learning outside the classroom. Alarmingly, evidence also suggests that children and young people are spending less and less time outside: for example, research by Natural England has found that the likelihood of a child visiting any green space at all has halved in a generation.
The Department has taken forward various initiatives that are intended to increase schools' commitment to, and confidence in, delivering such opportunities. Yet, five years on from our Report, we find ourselves coming to the same conclusions as our predecessor Committee. The funding of learning outside the classroom initiatives remains inadequate; teachers' health and safety concerns, which have been a significant barrier to school trips, have yet to be assuaged; and teacher training continues to pay scant attention to preparing teachers to lead learning outside the classroom. In the context of the 'rarely cover' provisions, it appears that some schools are not able or willing to plan learning outside the classroom provision far enough in advance to ensure that it is not adversely affected.
We call on the Department to increase substantially the resources devoted to learning outside the classroom, particularly the funding for the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom and the Quality Badge scheme, so that they can achieve much greater impact.
School trips and visits must not become only the preserve of pupils from more affluent backgrounds or the independent schools sector. On that basis, we were attracted by the idea of introducing subsidies for this provision.
We are of the view that learning outside the classroom, if it is to be taken seriously by all schools, needs to be made an entitlement within the National Curriculum. Learning outside the classroom should be considered by Ofsted as part of school inspections and be reflected in the School Report Card.
The Department must prioritise publication of revised health and safety guidance pertaining to learning outside the classroom.
Learning outside the classroom urgently needs high profile champions, within the Department and nationally.
Schools should have an explicit policy on learning outside the classroom and should appoint a member of their staff to take responsibility for delivering that policy.
The Department and the teacher unions must provide greater leadership to schools in terms of how they are interpreting the 'rarely cover' provisions and planning for learning outside the classroom in the context of those provisions.
Learning outside the classroom must have a clearer and more consistent presence across initial teacher training and early career and ongoing professional development provision for teachers.