Government's response to the Sixth Report from
the Children, Schools and Families Committee, Session 2009-10
1. The Children, Schools and Families Committee published
the report of its inquiry into Education Outside the Classroom
on 1 April 2010.
2. This is the Government response. It is structured
- Section 1 sets out the progress
that has been made since the Committee first reported on Learning
Outside the Classroom in 2004 and the approach that this Government
intends to take in moving Learning Outside the Classroom forward;
- Section 2 responds to individual
recommendations made by the Committee.
SECTION 1PROGRESS SINCE 2004
1. Under the previous Administration, significant
progress was made in bringing together organisations with an interest
in promoting learning outside the classroom. These organisations
have worked together on guidance and support for schools and on
the development of the Quality Badge accreditation scheme under
the direction of a new Council for Learning Outside the Classroom.
2. The Department for Education had a role to play
in bringing the organisations together and pump-priming key developments.
However, this Government believes that the time has come, as was
always planned, for the Department to withdraw and leave the Council
and member organisations to work directly with schools and learning
outside the classroom providers.
3. We agree with the Committee about the importance
of learning outside the classroom. But we also believe it should
be for schools to decide how to teach and what mediums to use
to deliver that teaching. This includes learning outside the classroom
which, like learning within the classroom, should be a matter
for teachers' professional judgement and not something prescribed
by central government or imposed on schools through bureaucratic
4. We are not therefore able to accept those recommendations
of the Committee which call for additional resources, government
regulation, monitoring or guidance.
5. We want to ensure that schools have the maximum
freedom to teach in the way that they judge best for their pupils,
including through Learning Outside the Classroom activities, and
we are ready to explore how to increase school freedom in this
regard by, for example, reviewing the constraints flowing from
unnecessary Health and Safety red tape or from teachers' pay and
SECTION 2RESPONSE TO INDIVIDUAL RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Learning outside the classroom is important,
and the Department must provide adequate funding to achieve maximum
impact. We see no reason for the very marked differential in funding
levels between the Music Manifesto and the Learning Outside the
Classroom Manifesto, and request that the Department provide an
explanation for the discrepancy. We believe that the allocation
of a comparatively small sum would make an enormous difference
to learning outside the classroom, and call on the Department
to look again at the resources it has provided for the Council
for Learning Outside the Classroom and the Quality Badge scheme.
We agree that learning outside the classroom is important.
However, we do not agree that more central funding is needed.
The Department has supported the manifesto partnership, and more
recently the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, with
funding of just over £5 million between 2006-2010. This direct
funding from the Department was always intended to pump-prime
key developments. We believe that the time has now come for the
Department to withdraw and leave the Council and its member organisations
to work directly with schools and learning outside the classroom
The Department's direct subsidy for the manifesto
partnership and for the LOtC Council has been in addition to a
range of other funding that has directly contributed to more young
people experiencing the world beyond the classroom, for example:
- Over £1 billion (up to
2011) has been made available to local authorities and schools
to develop and deliver sustainable extended services including
after school activities.
- The Strategic Commissioning
programme was established in 2003 and exists to support and enrich
the learning of children and young people and to promote inclusion
through the use of cultural resources in national and regional
museums. By 2011, this programme, to which DfE has contributed
£1.5m a year, will have seen £32 million of investment.
2. Learning outside the classroom must not become
only the preserve of pupils from more affluent backgrounds or
from the independent schools sectorall children should
have opportunities to experience environments away from their
local area, and to visit museums and galleries and other sites
of interest, including the natural environment of the English
countryside. We call on the Department to ensure that families'
ability to pay is not a deterrent to schools offering or pupils
participating in school trips and visits. We commend to the Department
the principle of subsidies for children from low-income families
for school trips.
We agree that all children should have the opportunity
to take part in school visits and trips with an educational purpose.
We trust schools to make sensible and sensitive decisions
about arrangements for visits which do not disadvantage children
from less well-off families. Schools are free to subsidise the
costs of educational visits for less well-off families and may
not, as a matter of law, charge for any visits that are being
undertaken as part of the National Curriculum, or as part of preparing
a child for a prescribed public examination. The school may, however,
ask for voluntary contributions and may charge to cover the cost
of board and lodging.
When a school informs parents about a forthcoming
visit, they should make it clear that parents who can prove that
they are in receipt of certain benefits are exempt from paying
the cost of board and lodging.
3. We are of the view that, to ensure that learning
outside the classroom is taken seriously by all schools, there
should be an individual entitlement within the National Curriculum
to at least one out of school visit a term.
We do not agree with the suggestion that an entitlement
to one school visit a term should be built into the National Curriculum.
The purpose of the National Curriculum should be to set out what
should be taught not how it should be taught. That is why
we intend to review the National Curriculum to return it to its
original purposea core national entitlement organised around
subject disciplinesand give teachers the freedom to decide
how to teach that core entitlement, including using activities
outside of the classroom. Furthermore, learning outside the classroom
is not just about one off trips. It should provide young people
with a wide range of experiences which progressively build children's
knowledge and understanding of subject disciplines, systematically
complementing learning in the classroom.
4. The Department and the Qualifications and Curriculum
Development Agency must ensure that the importance of such provision
is indicated systematically throughout curriculum-related frameworks
We think this is unnecessary and is an issue which
should be left to the professional judgement of teachers. We have
committed to reducing the current amount of guidance to schools
so that they can focus on their core purpose of raising standards
for all children through high quality teaching and learning. We
put our trust in front-line professionals to make the right decisions
about the medium of learning for all young people. We know that
many schools value the impact of learning outside the classroom
and we expect that to continue.
5. We recommend that Ofsted include learning outside
the classroom provisionas part of the curriculumin
its inspection framework, and that the Department include pupils'
access to such activities in the School Report Card.
We are reviewing school improvement and accountability
measures, including the inspection arrangements. It is important
that school inspection focus on the core elements of school performance
such as standards, quality of leadership, and behaviour and safety.
The quality of a school's learning outside the classroom should
be judged by the results it helps the school to achieve, not in
its own right. We are not pursuing the previous plans for a School
Report Card but we are looking at the performance tables with
a view to providing parents with a wider range of performance
information than is currently available. We expect that many schools
will take the opportunity to publish information for prospective
parents about their learning outside the classroom activities.
They do not need the Government to tell them to do this.
6. The Department should monitor the number and
range of learning outside the classroom activities provided by
schools. Analysis should include a breakdown by category of school
and the socio-economic characteristics of the pupils taking part.
We do not agree that schools should have to provide
such information to the DfE, at a time when schools are asking
us to reduce bureaucratic and data collection burdens. We are
determined to reduce the bureaucratic burden placed on schools
and we are committed to a 30% reduction in front-line data collection
burdens by 2011/12.
Furthermore, the Council have already undertaken
a sampling survey which will enabled them to obtain a baseline
picture of learning outside the classroom in schools whilst minimising
the burden on schools. This year, the Council has commissioned
research to repeat the baseline study in order to measure year
on year trends. This will also provide an analysis to further
demonstrate the effects and benefits for young people.
7. The delay in getting revised health and safety
guidance in place is disappointing. We urge the Department to
publish this guidance at the earliest opportunity. Without a further
drive to both ease concerns about litigation and root out the
use of health and safety as an excuse for curtailing provision,
the effort and funding that has been put into promoting learning
outside the classroom will be wasted.
We agree that we need to ease concerns about litigation
and root out the use of health and safety as an excuse for curtailing
provision. We are contributing to Lord Young's current review
of health and safety law which is investigating concerns over
the application and perception of health and safety legislation
and the rise of the compensation culture.
In the meantime, the comprehensive material published
by the Department in 1998 and 2001/02 remains relevant in
most respects, and we consulted on an update between late 2009
to early 2010. The form and content of new guidance will need
to reflect the findings of Lord Young's review, and for that reason
is unlikely to be ready before the final quarter of 2010 at earliest.
8. We were impressed by the way in which some
schools had found it possible to accommodate the 'rarely cover'
provisions through, for example, the reorganisation of the school
timetable. We were disappointed to learn that some school leaders
seem to be interpreting the 'rarely cover' provisions as an excuse
to prevent pupils and teachers from being out of school during
the school day. We call on the Department and the teacher unions
to provide stronger leadership on this matter and to assist schools
in planning their provision in the context of 'rarely cover'.
Schools should be free to organise themselves and
that is why we are bringing in measures to give them greater freedoms.
As part of this, consideration will be given to provisions relating
to teachers' terms and conditions including "rarely cover".
In terms of the current provisions, it remains that
these activities should be planned well in advance and appropriate
cover arrangements put in place. Every school should publish a
calendar of scheduled activities and a timetable setting out the
school's provision for teaching and learning to allow another
member of staff to be timetabled to take the lesson. This makes
planning and consulting with staff and their union representatives
on the school's calendar and staff timetables critical.
Any in year changes to the calendar and timetable
should only be for sound educational reasons and made as infrequently
9. Learning outside the classroom has a range
of potential supporters and powerful lobby groups to draw onthe
science lobby in the universities, celebrity environmentalists,
and the farming lobby, to name a few. The sector requires champions
who are committed to promoting the educational and social benefits
of learning outside the classroom. These champions are limited
in what they can achieve without the back-up of sufficient resourcing
of related initiatives, learning outside the classroom being made
an entitlement within the National Curriculum and being covered
in school inspections.
We know that there are many strong and vocal supporters
of learning outside the classroom. It was their influence that
led the previous Government to develop the Manifesto in 2006 with
a vision for it to eventually be driven by the Council, and crucially
the sectors and organisations that sit beneath it. We welcome
champions for the sector, but do not agree with the recommendation
that further intervention from central government would boost
We want to change fundamentally the relationship
between schools and the Government, Ofsted and Local Authorities.
This means a significant reduction in the number of initiatives from
the centre, an increase in school autonomy, and putting our trust
in front-line professionals to make the right decisions to deliver
high quality teaching and learning for all young people.
10. We believe that each school should have an
explicit policy on learning outside the classroom, covering both
the educational and health and safety aspects of this provision.
Schools should appoint a suitably trained learning outside the
classroom co-ordinator to deliver the policy.
There is no need for the Government to impose a bureaucratic
requirement on schools to have a written policy on learning outside
the classroom. We support the need for teachers to be well prepared
to deliver learning outside the classroom activities, particularly
when it comes to aspects of health and safety. However, in line
with this Government's approach to reducing bureaucracy and putting
our trust in teachers, we do not intend to compel schools to follow
one policy or one direction over another.
If schools choose, there is support available through
Local Authority advisers, working closely with the Outdoor Education
Advisers Panel and the Council for LOtC. This approach will allow
schools to develop an approach or policy at a local level that
works best for them.
11. Learning outside the classroom supports pupils'
learning and development. It has the potential to enrich and enliven
teaching across all subjects. Teachers need to be exposed to learning
outside the curriculum from early on in their career, and this
should not be left to chance. We expect to see a clearer and more
consistent presence for learning outside the classroom across
initial teacher training and early career and ongoing professional
development for teachers.
There is already a clear presence for learning outside
the classroom within Initial Teacher Training. The Training and
Development Agency (TDA) is currently scoping a review of
professional and occupational standards for the whole schools
workforce, and will be considering how best to reflect a number
of emerging policy issues as part of that review. The TDA is already
committed to considering the role of LOTC and fieldwork in
initial teacher training, particularly in relation to the qualified
teacher status (QTS) standards, as part of the review.
The QTS standards require all trainees to be aware
of their own rights and responsibilities in areas such as health
and safety, and to demonstrate, through the teaching of their
subject, that they can establish purposeful and safe learning
QTS standard Q30 states that those recommended for
the award of QTS should: "Establish a purposeful and safe
learning environment conducive to learning and identify opportunities
for learners to learn in out-of-school contexts." The TDA
guidance accompanying the standard states that: "Trainees
should be able to identify opportunities for children and young
people to learn in the school grounds and in out-of-school contexts
such as museums, theatres, field centres and work settings. In
order to meet this standard, trainees are not expected to undertake
out-of-school visits, nor to take sole responsibility for the
organisation and leadership of any such visits."
12. We welcome the 'Teaching Outside the Classroom'
scheme. We call on the Department and the Training and Development
Agency for Schools to monitor take up of the scheme among providers
of initial teacher training and to address any barriers to their
The providers of this scheme, along with other partners
including the Training and Development Agency (TDA), are already
well placed to monitor take up through the Teaching Outside
the Classroom website. As a partner the TDA is best placed
to consider barriers to participation and is currently considering
the take up data, to identify barriers to participation, and to
find ways to address those barriers.