Learning Outside The Classroom Case Study
Learning Outside The Classroom Report Findings
Natural Connections Demonstration Project, 2012-2016: Final Report
Publish Year: 2016
The Natural Connections Demonstration project was a four-year initiative to help school children – particularly those from disadvantaged areas – experience the benefits of the natural environment by empowering teachers to use the outdoors to support everyday learning.
For the first time, the Natural Connections project provides strong evidence that learning outdoors has multiple benefits for school children. 92 per cent of teachers surveyed said that pupils were more engaged with learning when outdoors and 85 per cent saw a positive impact on their behaviour.
The majority of children also thought they learned better and achieved more when learning outside. 92 per cent of pupils involved in the project said they enjoyed their lessons more when outdoors, with 90 per cent feeling happier and healthier as a result.
School moves towards National Challenge target thanks to outdoor learning
All Saints Catholic Centre, Knowsley, Merseyside
The National Challenge programme is designed to help schools achieve a Government target of 30 per cent of GCSE children achieving five A to C grades, in subjects that include Maths and English.
For programme member All Saints Catholic Centre in Knowsley, Merseyside, this means it can tap into additional funding from the local authority among other support measures.
Thanks to a legacy of encouraging children to experience the great outdoors, the school has discovered that outdoor activities contribute towards improved exam grades, taking the school closer to its National Challenge target.
It uses funding available under the National Challenge programme to take groups of children for outdoor learning weekends.
How it works
Each year, All Saints Catholic Centre identifies approximately 30 KS4 children it believes have potential to achieve improved GCSE grades. Typically, they believe these pupils are likely to achieve D grades – usually in Maths and English subjects. The aim is to improve this to a grade C or higher, achieving the National Challenge objective.
It applies to Knowsley’s Firm Foundations scheme that makes funding available for the authority’s schools falling into the National Challenge programme. Firm Foundations offers tailor-made help for individual pupils, ranging from mental toughness coaching to weekend revision programmes. Outdoor learning weekends are encouraged and supported, as they also fit the national Learning Outside The Classroom agenda.
All Saints Catholic Centre has been successful in obtaining 100 per cent funding from Firm Foundations for every application made for outdoor learning weekends.
What they do
All Saints Catholic Centre uses outdoor provider Pro-Active Adventure based at Llangollen, North Wales. Pro-Active Adventure specialises in schools outdoor learning and was an early adopter of the Quality Badge under the Learning Outside The Classroom scheme.
Pro-Active Adventure develops a programme of weekend activities tailor-made to the school’s specific objectives. By opting to use outdoor learning as a tool to encourage exam revision, All Saints Catholic Centre typically runs the weekend four weeks before GCSE exams. Group sizes are usually between 16 and 20.
Using classroom facilities at Pro-Active Adventure’s state-of-the-art outdoor learning and activity centre, in a refurbished historic mansion, pupils combine a weekend of exam revision sessions with exciting outdoor pursuits. These can take place in the mansion grounds or in the superb Welsh countryside nearby.
What is the outcome?
Of the groups that participate, 75 per cent of pupils expected to achieve a GCSE D-grade improve this to grade C, so achieving the National Challenge target. Head of English Jason Evans has led several outdoor learning weekends, and reports that it helps pupils taking part to better focus on their exam preparation.
They share a very different but real experience with the teachers. The pupils are set apart, each receiving real attention, and it makes them feel special. It draws out extra effort from them, which is critical in the run-up to exams. We can’t provide this kind of motivation from the classroom.”
Of Pro-Active Adventure, Jason adds:
They are terrific, and really go out of their way to make the whole experience convivial. You can see they’re challenging the children too. As a teacher, I can take the reins off because I know our kids are in really good hands.”
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Further information on our LOTC programme read our Learning Outside The Classroom section.