LOtC Quality Badge: Breaking down barriers for schools

Blog written by Sally Thompson, Quality Badge Manager for the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom. Sally explains how the LOtC Quality Badge is helping more children access great educational experiences.

Venues all over the UK are providing inspirational opportunities for children to learn outside the classroom. These hands on experiences enable children to see, hear, touch and explore the real world as part of their learning, deepening their understanding and teaching them to appreciate and be inspired by the world around them.

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We hear so often about children today being ‘cooped up’ in their homes and classrooms.

¾ of young people in the UK spend less time outdoors than prisoners[i] and more than 1 in 9 children have not set foot in the natural environment in the last 12 months.[ii] The reality is the only chance some children will have to explore the world beyond their four walls will come from LOtC opportunities offered at school.

Teachers agree that children learn best through first-hand experience. Ofsted also endorses the power of LOtC, finding that getting out and about in small, frequent doses improves understanding and standards as well as helping social and emotional development.

So, with such overwhelming recognition of the benefits of LOtC, what is stopping schools from doing more? Sadly, many teachers report that they are hindered by concerns over health and safety, red tape, lack of time or lack of funding.

Awarded by the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, the LOtC Quality Badge was launched in 2009 to give assurance to schools and help cut red tape around the planning of educational visits. The accreditation is awarded to organisations offering good quality learning experiences and managing risk effectively. Choosing accredited providers makes life easier for teachers organising educational visits as they can feel confident that their pupils are receiving good quality and inspiring educational experiences in an environment where any risks are well managed.

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What are the benefits of the LOtC Quality Badge for providers of LOtC?

The LOtC Quality Badge has become the benchmark by which providers of educational visits are judged – so schools planning visits are likely to check that their chosen venue has the LOtC Quality Badge.

The LOtC Quality Badge is endorsed by Government in the health and safety guidelines for schools, and is the only accreditation scheme for all types of LOtC provision. It is also endorsed by the Outdoor Education Advisors Panel (OEAP) whose members provide advice and support on educational visits to most schools in England & Wales.  OEAP members accept the LOtC Quality Badge in place of much of their pre-visit paperwork, and advise schools to use accredited providers when planning visits.LOtC-QB-logo (2)

For this reason, being awarded the LOtC Quality Badge will help you to attract more bookings from schools and will reduce pre-visit red tape, saving your staff time. Furthermore, the LOtC Quality Badge will give you a framework to enable you to develop and improve the quality of your educational provision and ensure that you continue to meet schools’ needs.

Making an application

There are two routes to achieving the LOtC Quality Badge and the route you take is determined by the activities you offer to schools.  Route 1 is for those organisations offering activities which don’t require specialist risk assessment and involves completing an online self-assessment form which is audited by CLOtC staff. 10% of successful Route 1 applicants, selected at random, will also receive a quality assurance visit. Route 2 is for organisations offering activities that require a degree of technical expertise for effective risk management. Application involves a self-assessment form which will then be used as the basis of assessment by a specialist inspector. The kinds of activities that require a route 2 application are listed on our website http://lotcqualitybadge.org.uk/how-to-apply/route-2

For more information about the LOtC Quality Badge, to search for badged providers in your area or to make an application please visit www.lotcqualitybadge.org.uk . If you would like guidance on the best route for you, please contact us qualitybadge@lotc.org.uk

[i] Survey with 2000 parents of 5-12 year olds funded by Persil’s #Dirtisgood Campaign (2016) https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/25/three-quarters-of-uk-children-spend-less-time-outdoors-than-prison-inmates-survey
[ii] The Impact of Children’s Connection to Nature: A Report by the RSPB, 2015, Richardson, M et al, University of Derby

About the authorsally

Sally Thompson, is the Quality Badge Development Manager for CLOtC. She oversees the development of the LOtC Quality Badge and developed and now manages LOtC Mark, CLOtC’s accreditation for schools celebrating and supporting the development of meaningful teaching and learning through LOtC. Sally also practices what she preache, and can regularly be seen offering CPD training sessions to schools and providers throughout the country.

Sally was part of the Real World Learning network, a 3 year project initially involving 7 key partners across 6 EU countries. Sally was a key member of the working group for Quality Criteria and Assessment which produced a framework of criteria for assessing the efficacy of LOtC experiences in promoting an understanding of scientific concepts and a positive approach to sustainability.

Free guidance on planning, running and evaluating LOtC experiences can be found at www.lotc.org.uk

Follow CLOtC on twitter @CLOtC

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1 small step for me, 10 giant leaps for learning outside the classroom

Blog written by Elaine Skates, Chief Executive of CLOtC.

As Elaine Skates, Chief Executive of CLOtC moves on to pastures new, she reflects on the achievements of the past 10 years in improving learning outside the classroom practice and ensuring that more children have access to regular LOtC experiences as an essential part of their education.Empty_Classroom_049_FotoPlus

2008 was a big year for learning outside the classroom. With government backing, a partnership of stakeholders was working together to tackle the decline in educational visits arising from fear of litigation in schools. Teachers were frustrated by excessive red tape and children were missing out.

Ofsted published a report “Learning Outside the Classroom – how far should you go” celebrating the impact of LOtC and urging schools to ensure LOtC was integrated into the curriculum.  Ed Balls, then education secretary, launched free online ‘Out & About’ guidance and a new charity – the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (CLOtC) was being set up.

Since I joined the charity in 2009, I have seen many positive steps which have had a very real impact on the way schools utilise LOtC. Today I hardly ever hear health & safety cited as the reason for not doing LOtC and schools are planning LOtC more effectively with clear learning outcomes in mind.

The 10 great leaps for LOtCLOtC-QB-logo (2)

  1. Launch of LOtC Quality Badge. The LOtC Quality Badge has saved schools endless hours of time chasing paperwork. The inclusion of educational quality as well as risk management gives an important message about what schools should be looking for when planning LOtC. lotcqualitybadge.org.uk
  2. HSE Common Sense/Common Safety. Messaging from the Health and Safety Executive that children won’t learn about risk when they are wrapped in cotton wool has been instrumental in tackling the H&S fears and myths around school trips.
  3. Publication of National Guidance. The achievement of the Outdoor Education Advisers Panel (OEAP) in agreeing National Guidance for educational visits, removing the need for each school employer or establishment to write and maintain their own, cannot be overstated. https://oeapng.info
  4. Introduction of new national curriculum in England, Wales & curriculum for excellence in Scotland. All 3 national curriculums are full of opportunities for delivering LOtC, ensuring that the only limit is teachers’ imaginations. Department for Education recognition that LOtC can support the progress of disadvantaged pupils and pupil premium funding can be used for LOtC has also enabled more LOtC for all.Mark-Gold-logo-low-res
  5. Launch of LOtC Mark accreditation for schools. Informed by knowledge of what works in schools, the national LOtC Mark accreditation gives schools a development framework to help them embed and integrate regular LOtC. lotc.org.ukLearning Away logo white background
  6. Learning Away action research. Evidencing the impact of residentials, Learning Away has helped schools to innovate, resulting in more schools taking children on residential earlier and trying new approaches. learningaway.org.uk
  7. Natural Connections demonstration project. Focusing on learning in natural environments close to home, this research improved our understanding of how schools can be supported to embed outdoor learning, and contributed to the inclusion of objectives to encourage children to be close to nature in the governments new 25 Year Environment Plan.
  8. Join up between research, policy & practice. The work of the Institute for Outdoor Learning and the Strategic Research Group for Learning in Natural Environments in identifying evidence gaps and establishing local research hubs has been a huge step forward and will ensure more effective evidence and use of research in future years. outdoor-learning-research.org
  9. Launch of Brilliant Residentials campaign. Demonstrating the impact we canBrilliant_Residentials_full_colour have if we all work together, members of the Learning Away Consortium and residential providers have promoted the value of residentials and how to make them even better. learningaway.org.uk
  10. Cross sector advocacy and collaboration. Most exciting of all, the leadership of the Outdoor Council and the positivity of other LOtC Sector Partnerships united through the LOtC Sectors Working Group have strengthened relationships and united partners to pull together. Great things will come out of closer collaboration and I can’t wait for the fruition of these efforts for the benefit of young people.

There are new challenges of course (funding, inclusivity & evaluation to name a few) but looking back at just how far we have come over the last 10 years makes me very excited about where we will be in 2028. I am immensely proud of what has been achieved by CLOtC, our partners and most importantly the schools who embrace our messages, research & tools to make education exciting & real. As I pass the CLOtC baton on I have never been more optimistic about the future for LOtC and what that means for the next generation.

The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom is the national charity that campaigns for every child to experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of education. Free online guidance, resources, membership, accreditations and other support for schools and providers is available at www.lotc.org.uk

About the Author

ElaineElaine Skates- Chief Executive Officer of CLOtC

Elaine joined CLOtC in 2009 as Head of Operations and Communications. Highlights of her career at CLOtC include writing and implementing a communications strategy; developing training and resources to support curriculum delivery; working to ensure the inclusion of LOtC opportunities in the new national curriculum; and launching and developing a membership scheme as a core funding stream and product which today delivers support for over 800 schools, organisations and individuals.

Before joining CLOtC in 2009, Elaine worked for Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and the Institution of Chemical Engineers.

Elaine is a passionate believer in the benefits of learning outside the classroom in raising attainment and giving young people the skills they need for real life and employment. In her spare time she practices what she preaches, getting out and about with her two boys and enabling them to get  dirty, learn about risk and develop their knowledge of the world through wonderful hands on experiences.

Elaine leaves CLOtC on 10th May 2018 to become the Head of Learning and Skills with the Heart of England Forest.

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Born Outdoors – Outdoor Citizens

Anita Kerwin-Nye, founder of Every Child Should, has written a blog for CLOtC.

My love for the outdoors and the role it has played in my personal well being is well documented. Similarly, how outdoor residentials and adventure learning took me down a very (positive) different path to the one I could have gone down.

So, I am particularly delighted to have joined the Institute for Outdoor Learning as an Advisor and pleased that part of this role includes working for the Outdoor Council on their campaign to take outdoor learning to more children and young people. I am thrilled that CLOTC Sector Working Group are supporting this growing campaign group.LA_CrabtreePrimary_LowRes_EmileHolba-14

The benefits of outdoor and adventure learning are well evidenced – for individuals, for families, for communities and for society.

And we know that there is much excellent provision.

But we also know that those who could benefit the most are – as is so often the case – those who access it the least. 2016 Natural England research showed that 1 in 10 children and young people had not been to a park, forest, beach or other natural environment in the last 10 years. Tom Bennett – the government’s advisor on behaviour –has articulated concerns that children are not being exposed to and supported in managing risk. This links to several studies on schools being risk adverse and that Heads are increasingly concerned about financial and professional penalties.

There is though demand. A recent survey commissioned by Bohunt Academy Trust outlines that most adults believe outdoor learning to be important and several recent surveys have called for outdoor learning, school trips and adventure to remain at the core of a rounded experience for children and young people.

And we know it works. Education Endowment Foundation confirms that Adventure Learning in its own right has a positive impact and we know that its impact on meta cognition, team work, communication and ‘resilience’ can be significant. It is a key contribution to what the Department for Education has identified as ‘life skills’.

The evidence tells us that the best outcomes will be achieved with a progressive experience – developing knowledge, skills and passion for outdoor learning from the early years into adulthood. We know what works – our challenge is how to take this to more children and young people in a way that sets up good habits for life long engagement with the outdoors and adventure.

Born Outdoors

This summer the Outdoor Council will launch ‘Born Outdoors’ – a new campaign to pull together the adventure learning and outdoor sector with a focus on building outdoor learning programmes around every child.

The campaign’s aims are to:

“ensure that the 750,000 four-year olds entering reception classes in September 2022 will be guaranteed high quality outdoor learning throughout their school life and through a rich set of family, youth work and community experiences”.

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Outdoor Council want the children born in 2017 to be a generation ‘born outdoors’. We want them to have experiences at every age and stage of their childhood that move them towards being a generation of ‘outdoor citizens’ when they turn 18 in 2035.

This will help create a generation of resilient and healthy adults with a respect for, knowledge of and skills in life outdoors. Who have experience adventures throughout their childhood and understand how to manage risk and challenge. A generation whose academic success has been aided by the impact of effective outdoor learning.  A generation of future parents who know that outdoor education is a must have for their own children. A generation connected to nature in way that benefits their physical and mental well-being. A generation better equipped to address the challenges facing the environment.

Over the coming months we are working on two specific pieces to support schools and the outdoor and adventure community.

  • The Institute of Outdoor Learning – with some support from Natural England – have started work on a progression framework for outdoor learning that looks at what a progressive ‘outdoor learning passport’ might look like from a child’s perspective. This will be tested with the outdoor learning sector, parents, young people and schools over the months ahead.
  • Recognising the import of ensuring that in 2022 this group of children are entering primary schools that need to be equipped to support outdoor learning the Outdoor Council has committed to a specific piece of work on developing the ‘outdoor learning’ primary offer. A scaleable model – developed with primary school and education partners – that builds the capacity of every primary school to support high quality outdoor learning.

Born Outdoors will be a key theme of November 2018 Outdoor Learning Conference which will bring together the largest gathering of schools and outdoor learning professionals to consider the next steps in adventure learning for all.

For more information on Born Outdoors (previous working title Campaign 22) you can follow @outdoorcouncil_ on twitter and watch out for updates in Institute for Outdoor Learning mailings. For more information contact anita.kn@outdoor-learning.org

Every child born outdoors and every adult a citizen of the outdoors.

About the Author Anita Kermin Nye

Anita Kerwin-Nye is one of two founders of Every Child Should, a new campaign to ensure all children can access a rich and rounded set of experiences by the time they are 18.

Anita is a long terms advocate (and deliverer) of enrichment activity in and out of school and especially for those who need it most. Every Child Should draws on her 20 year history working with organisations to support access to culture, the arts, the outdoors, residentials, citizenship, financial education, first aid, conflict resolution and wider life skills: for all not the few.

Previously Anita founded The Communication Trust, a collaboration of over 40 charities working in the field of speech, language and communication. These charities – often competitors – worked together under Anita’s leadership to develop and deliver a UK-wide programme of support to schools, parents and young people.

Anita is a qualified teacher and youth worker and spent her early career working in challenging schools, prisons and estates in Brighton and East Sussex.

 

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Help Your Children Sleep Better: Turn Off Screens and Send Them Outside

Blog written by Sarah JohnsonCommunity Relations, Tuck Sleep

In the modern digital world, many children spend more time than ever in front of a screen. There’s also an increase in the number of sleep disorders amongst children. While digital learning has its place, the benefits of learning outside the standard classroom environment have more than an academic impact. Turning off the screens helps children sleep better, which in turn enhances learning, mood, and overall health.

Children Faces Outside

Sleep Deprivation

School-age children need anywhere from nine to twelve hours of sleep each day. Without adequate rest, more than their attention spans suffer. The immune system doesn’t work at full capacity, which leads to more illnesses that last longer. Concentration and short-term memory are reduced, making it hard for sleep-deprived children to reach their full academic, and sometimes social, potential. Mood and behavioral control also suffer. Consequently, lack of sleep can lead to cranky, distracted children who have a hard time paying attention.

However, there are ways to help your child get more of the high-quality sleep he needs be happy, healthy, and successful.

Too Much Screen Time

Today’s children spend, on average, six and a half hours on a screen. While some of that time may be spent learning at school or doing homework, a good portion is spent playing video games, on social media, or chatting with friends. That much screen time has a detrimental effect on your child’s ability to sleep at night.

Circadian rhythms control the sleep-wake cycle. These rhythms rely on natural light to time the release of sleep-inducing hormones. The bright blue light from televisions, e-readers, smartphones, and laptops suppresses the release of melatonin. Essentially, the brain thinks it’s time to be awake. Teens are more susceptible to blue light than adults, so it wouldn’t be unexpected for a teenager to be up far later than usual after playing video games or texting friends. Turning off the screens at least an hour before bed can your child get better sleep.

Girls Outside

Send Them Outside

Outside play has incredible benefits for a child’s sleep. The physical exertion alone helps them to feel more tired at night. Rather than sitting in front of the screen using a minimal amount of energy, your child can run, play, and create, which builds strong muscles and bones while helping to wear out his body for better sleep. Outside play also stimulates the brain and promotes healthy social relationships.

Physical exertion, like playing outside and exercising, not only makes your child more tired but also helps to establish healthy circadian rhythms. Time spent out in the sun keeps the brain on track for a regular sleep-wake cycle.

An Australian study found that for every hour children spent working on screens, their sleep suffered. Each hour of screen time led to shorter sleep duration, taking longer to fall asleep and being less likely to sleep more than 10 hours. Conversely, sending children outside may improve children’s sleep patterns. Since children retain information more easily and control their moods better with more sleep, sending them out to play instead of staying inside may improve their ability to perform academically.

Better Sleep Through Good Habits

While reducing screen time and encouraging more outdoor play are helpful to better sleep, some kids may need more. Start by making sure your child’s bedroom supports healthy sleep. Find a mattress that is supportive and free of lumps or sags. Even an air mattress can be a good choice if it’s comfortable at night. During the night, keep the bedroom cool, quiet, and dark.

It’s also important to keep a consistent bedtime. If your child has a hard time falling asleep at night, try implementing a bedtime routine to help signal the brain to release sleep hormones. Any calming activity like reading a book, listening to quiet music, or singing a song can help quiet the mind and body. Just be sure to stick to the routine and start it at the same time every evening.

About the Author

Sarah Johnson- Community Relations for Tuck Sleep

Tuck Sleep is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.

For more information visit the Tuck Sleep website.
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Residential reach

Blog written by Peter Carne OBE, National Learning Adviser to the Learning Away consortium.

Many students say that residentials are the most memorable experience of their time at school. But how often do we hear about the many positive impacts they have on the adults participating? Peter Carne, the national adviser for Learning Away, describes some of the benefits of taking part in a residential for teachers and other staff in schools.

During the five-year ‘action research’ phase of the Learning Away programme, the views of all the staff involved were gained in focus groups and surveys.

They identified five main impacts of their involvement in residentials at their schools:

  • The residential allowed them space and time to develop new ways of teaching and learning and, having used the residential to successfully test these approaches, felt confident to incorporate them into their practice back in school. They had become more experimental and flexible in their teaching, were more willing to take risks and had confidence to try different types of teaching. They were more trusting of their students and linked this to the improved relationships developed on the residentials. They were more relaxed in the classroom environment and were giving students more responsibility, freedom and independence, leading to a more positive teaching and learning experience.
  • Residentials also had an impact on curriculum delivery, particularly in developing a more integrated and thematic approach. At one special school, staff noted that the residentials had helped them develop a more skills-based curriculum. They had used the residential to identify and develop key life skills. At another Secondary school, relationships developed with staff on residentials had resulted in a review of the alternative curriculum available within school and the development of a new curriculum, which better met the needs of students. Cross-curricular work undertaken on residentials also helped teachers identify just how many opportunities there were for taking a similar approach back in school.
  • Most importantly, residentials gave staff a different context to discover things about their students they hadn’t seen in the classroom, helping them to develop a better understanding of their needs, strengths and limitations. Teachers saw students in a completely different light, for example quieter students becoming more confident and outgoing. During Learning Away, the more trusting relationships developed between staff and students on residentials also meant students often shared more about themselves, which enabled staff to better understand their behaviours.
  • Teachers involved in Learning Away also developed stronger professional relationships with colleagues, as well as with other ‘experts’ involved in the delivery of residentials. The residential provided opportunities for them to develop relationships with staff they would not normally work with, for example from other subjects and from different year groups. This inspired and challenged them to think “even more outside the box”, developing their practice and being more creative. They returned from the residential with renewed enthusiasm, confidence and motivation.
  • Taking part in residentials was a valuable mechanism for professional development; helping to enhance the skills of new staff, give experienced staff additional responsibility, and provide new opportunities to develop planning and organisation, evaluation and volunteer management skills. Senior leaders involved in Learning Away suggested that residentials enabled them to identify strengths in members of staff that may not have been apparent within the school/classroom environment, which they built on back in school and on further residentials.

About the Author

Peter Carne OBE: Between 2011 and 2016, Peter was the Project Leader for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s special initiative, Learning Away, which funded and supported schools to enhancing young people’s learning, achievement and wellbeing by using innovative residential experiences as an integral part of the curriculum. He is currently working with the new Learning Away ‘legacy’ consortium as their National Adviser.

Visit the Learning Away website: www.learningaway.org.uk

 

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