Transforming Education Outside the Classroom - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents

1 Introduction

1.  The term 'learning outside the classroom' encompasses a range of provision, including:

  • activities within a school's or college's own buildings, grounds or immediate area;
  • participation in drama productions, concerts and other special events;
  • involvement in clubs, musical groups and sporting activities held during break-times and before or after the school day;
  • educational visits organised within the school day; and
  • residential visits that take place during the school week, a weekend or holiday.[1]

2.  In 2005 the Committee's predecessor, the Education and Skills Committee, published its Report Education Outside the Classroom.[2] The Report noted the benefits of learning outside the classroom in terms of supporting pupils' academic attainment and their development of 'soft' skills and social skills, especially for 'hard to reach' children and young people. Provision of learning outside the classroom was found to be "extremely patchy", while the evidence revealed a widespread perception that there was a high degree of risk involved in offering such opportunities. Cumbersome bureaucracy and issues of funding, time and resources were also found to lessen schools' commitment to providing opportunities for learning outside the classroom.

3.  In response to that Report, the Department has put in place a number of initiatives. In 2006 the Department published a manifesto for learning outside the classroom. This provides a 'shared vision' and statement of common intent for relevant organisations and practitioners. The overarching objective of the Manifesto is that "every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development, whatever their age, ability or circumstances".[3] There are now 1,920 signatories to the Manifesto, including schools, local authorities, museums and outdoor centres. In 2008 the Department launched the 'Quality Badge' scheme, through which providers of learning outside the classroom opportunities can gain accreditation to show the quality of their provision and their sound management of health and safety. The scheme is intended to help schools identify appropriate organisations to work with by providing one easily recognisable and trusted badge for all types of learning outside the classroom providers. In 2009, the Department established the independent Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, which is charged with taking forward the Manifesto and the Quality Badge scheme. The Council has since published its action plan for 2009-11.[4] The Council's remit covers 10 areas: adventurous education; arts and creativity; built environment; expeditions; farming and countryside; heritage; natural environment; sacred space; school grounds; and study, sports and cultural tours. The Department has also commissioned online training and guidance related to the Manifesto, called Out and About. This is available to schools, youth clubs and early years settings to help them plan and implement learning outside the classroom. The Department is currently drawing up revised guidance on health and safety. It has also supported learning outside the classroom through the London Challenge initiative and at subject level.[5]

4.  Despite all of this activity, questions have been raised as to the adequacy and effectiveness of the Department's approach to supporting learning outside the classroom. A number of stakeholders remain sceptical about the prospects for such learning opportunities to be embedded across schools and about the longer-term viability of the Council and Quality Badge scheme.

5.  In order to assess the progress made since 2005, we held an evidence session to hear from these stakeholders and others. We took evidence from the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, the Countryside Alliance, the Field Studies Council, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and Sir Mike Tomlinson in his capacity as Chair of the National Science Learning Centre and Trustee of the Farming and Countryside Education body. We also took evidence from some of the teacher unions. Several other organisations submitted written evidence for the session, which helped us with this Report. A full list of those who gave oral evidence and who submitted written evidence is provided at the end of this Report.

1   Ofsted, Learning outside the classroom: how far should you go?, October 2008. Back

2   Education and Skills Committee, Second Report of Session 2004-05, Education Outside the Classroom, HC 120 Back

3   DCSF, Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto, 2006. Back

4   Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, Forward Plan 2009-11, March 2009. Back

5   For example, the New Views residential courses funded as part of the London Challenge initiative, the Action Plan for Geography, and the work of the national and regional Science Learning Centres.  Back

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