2 Learning outside the classroom five
years on |
6. The known benefits for pupils of learning
outside the classroom are many and varied. They include: improved
engagement and attendance; the development of learning and thinking
skills; and the strengthening of personal, social and emotional
development (e.g. confidence, self-reliance, and management of
risk). On that basis,
we were not clear why, five years on from the Committee's Report
on this topic, schools had not adopted learning outside the classroom
more widely and more enthusiastically than appears to have been
the case. While all learning outside the classroom can be of value,
we were particularly interested in provision that takes pupils
beyond their school grounds and immediate localityschool
trips and residential visitswhich we believe can be especially
Pupils' access to learning outside
7. A survey of school and local authority respondents,
commissioned by the Department and published in 2006, found a
general perception that the amount of learning outside the classroom
within school grounds had remained the same or even increased
over the preceding five years. School trips and visits, however,
were not seen to have flourished, especially day or residential
visits to natural environments.
Our evidence suggested that, in subsequent years, pupils' access
to school trips and visits had, at best, remained static. As Andy
Simpson, Head of Youth and Education at the RSPB, observed:
The pattern of [schools running school trips] is
about the same [as recent years]; it is neither up nor down. ...
that masks a disappointment in so far as the initiatives that
have been put in place should have had some effect on raising
numbers, and I am afraid that I cannot report that having taken
8. A recent survey by the Countryside Alliance
showed that, in any year, only around half of six to 15-year-olds
go on a trip to the countryside with their school.
This has been coupled by a more general decline in the amount
of time that children spend outside. Research by Natural England
has found that the likelihood of a child visiting any green space
at all has halved in a generation.
Reference was made by one of our witnesses to children having
become "entombed" in their homes.
Natural England found that nearly two-thirds of children played
at home indoors more than any other place.
9. Anthony Thomas, Chair of the Council for Learning
Outside the Classroom, having reviewed a series of Ofsted reports,
found that even in geography, where fieldwork is a requirement,
not all pupils are spending time outside the classroom. He also
found that only around 10% of pupils experience learning outside
the classroom, broadly defined, as part of their science lessons.
Declining access to laboratory based practical work in science
is a related problem. Science can be taught rigorously through
learning outside the classroom. The relative absence of these
opportunities, as well as practical work, undermines the whole
basis of science as an experimental learning experience, and leaves
pupils ill-equipped to study science at university level.
10. Some schools and groups of pupils still have
particularly poor access to learning outside the classroom. These
include schools in less affluent areas, pupils with special educational
needs, disabled pupils, and pupils from low-income families.
There is evidence that some groups of pupils opt out of school
trips and visits for cultural and/or financial reasons.
School rules on which pupils can participate in school trips and
visits can be counter-productive: not allowing poorly behaved
pupils to participate in these opportunities may be screening
out those very pupils who would benefit most.
Integration of provision with
11. Learning outside the classroom is strongest
at the end of Key Stage 2, where school trips and visits are something
of a 'rite of passage'. While such provision offers very valuable
experiences for these children, timetabling trips at the end of
the year limits the educational and learning opportunities that
can stem from them. More generally, the extent to which school
trips are built upon and exploited within a school varies enormously.
Too often learning outside the classroom is an isolated experience,
and is neither prepared for nor used when the pupils return to
school. There remains
no clear picture of progression in terms of learning outside the
classroom from early years right the way through into secondary
and post-16 provision.
6 Ofsted, Learning outside the classroom: how far should
you go?, October 2008. Back
O'Donnell, L., Education outside the classroom: an assessment
of activity and practice in schools and local authorities, DCSF
Research Report 803, November 2006. Back
Q 2 Back
Q 3 (Robert Gray) Back
Q 1; written evidence from Natural England (LOC 04) Back
Q 46 (Anthony Thomas) Back
Written evidence from Natural England (LOC 04) Back
Q 2 (Anthony Thomas) Back
Q 27 (Sir Mike Tomlinson) Back
Q 29 (Anthony Thomas); Q61 (Dr Patrick Roach). See also, O'Donnell,
L., Education outside the classroom: an assessment of activity
and practice in schools and local authorities, DCSF Research Report
803, November 2006. Back
Q 29 (Anthony Thomas); Q 50 (Dr Mary Bousted) Back
Q 29. See also, Ofsted, Learning outside the classroom: how far
should you go?, October 2008. Back
Q 16 (Sir Mike Tomlinson); Ofsted, Learning outside the classroom:
how far should you go?, October 2008. Back
Q 2 (Anthony Thomas) Back