Taking learning outside the classroom

Blog post written by YPO.

Compared to 50 years ago, children are spending less and less time outdoors, even more so after the events of the past six months and the developments in technology over the years – in fact, by the time a child reaches the age of 7, they will have spent the equivalent of 456 days looking at a screen – an average of four hours a day. Compared to this only 182 days will have been spent in the outdoors, which equates to around an hour and half a day.

While learning outside the classroom lacks exposure in the UK’s current school curriculum, it has countless benefits for both pupils and teachers that classroom lessons just cannot match;

  • Improves children and teacher mental health and wellbeing
  • Provides health benefits and increases physical activity
  • Naturally encourages creativity, problem solving and teamwork
  • Helps teachers with professional development
  • Provides more accessibility and activities, especially for children with SEN
  • Helps children learning about and connect with the environment they live

The return to school provides a great opportunity for venturing into the great outdoors to deliver a unique and engaging experience for pupils by exploring subjects like art, maths, and science outside of classroom walls. That said, many teachers are still reluctant to give outdoor learning a try, usually due to safety concerns and lack of equipment, space, and funding.

What many don’t realise is that the outdoors can provide natural resources and if well prepared for, planned and safely managed, outdoor lessons can be a rewarding learning experiences for children, who don’t always realise they are learning when outside.

It’s also important to remember that learning outside the classroom doesn’t end at the school gates either, it can be a visit to the local field or park – somewhere that enables challenge and thinking. Here’s some points to consider before taking learning outside:

  • Invest in storage to save space and protect equipment
  • Communicate with parents and ask them to provide clothing for all weather conditions
  • Conduct a risk assessment of outdoor areas and train staff accordingly
  • Provide washing facilities and/or protective clothing to prevent mess

At YPO, we’re very passionate about children’s learning so we’re constantly looking out for inspiration and ideas to create a fun and engaging environment that enables learning. That’s why we’re really excited to partner with the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom and we’re looking forward to sharing hints and tips with you.

Want to maximise your outdoor spaces? Take a look at our range of outdoor furniture, storage and resources, which includes products from the Cosy Collection at YPO.

Not sure where to start? We’ve got some great activity ideas for outdoor maths and outdoor literacy, as well as some helpful advice on creating an outdoor learning environment.

Don’t forget to celebrate Outdoor Classroom Day on 5 November 2020.

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3 Back to School Activities to get Children Learning Outside

Blog post written by Liv Corp, Content Executive at Twinkl Educational Publishing.

When schools across the UK closed their doors to most students due to Coronavirus, it completely changed how we educated our children. Overnight, classes were in dining rooms and back gardens became playgrounds. Meanwhile, teachers, parents and students adapted to home learning and brilliantly continued the education of our children.

Returning to school in September will undoubtedly be a different experience for both pupils and staff. New safety guidance such as observing social distancing, keeping to your bubbles and enhanced cleaning procedures are all part of our ‘new normal’, and these changes will also apply in school. Change can be scary, therefore it is important that children feel supported in their return to the classroom.

One way of getting children excited about returning to school is taking them outside of the classroom, and into the outdoors. Teaching outside of the usual classroom encourages children to feel freedom whilst learning and ensures an engaging lesson for your pupils. What’s not to love?

If you are looking for simple ways to inspire your young pupils by taking their learning experience outside of the classroom, take a look at these activities:

Plan a Scavenger Hunt
The classic outdoor activity! A scavenger hunt is simple to set up but very effective at reinforcing problem-solving skills, plus easily adaptable for all abilities and age groups.

All you need to get started is a list of items which could be found easily enough on your school field or outdoor play area; you could include items such as flat stones, leaves and pine cones.

Once the children have found their items they could then be tasked with sketching their items to develop their observation skills, or they could use some of their scavenged items to make a collage. There’s so much scope for taking this simple idea and making it your own.

Take the Maths Lesson Outdoors with Trail Cards
Creating a maths lesson which piques the interest of all pupils in the class is not always easy, but with these free trail cards from Twinkl, everyone in the class will be engaged in their maths lesson. This outdoor activity is the perfect way to get your pupil’s working their maths muscles and could even be incorporated into your scavenger hunt for older pupils or as a separate activity. This particular resource has two different ability levels, one designed for EYFS and one for KS1.

All of the items children are tasked with finding should be available within your school play areas and focus on numbers and shapes.

Twinkl offers a wide range of resources which can be used for outdoor learning and also gives teachers a handy guide on how to get started.

Get Creative with Leaf Painting and Threading
Once you have been out on your scavenger hunts, the fun doesn’t have to stop there! After the children have collected their leaves, the crafting can begin. Taking the leaves collected from the school field, you can upcycle them into hanging mobiles. All you will need is the leaves, some string, and a twig. If you are wanting to paint them, then you will need some paints and brushes.

Children can practice different brush strokes with their brushes, and you can encourage the use of bright colours to help the leaves stand out. This activity also allows time for children to investigate the different shapes of their leaves and the varying textures. Helping children to explore shapes helps develop their ability to identify and organise information, and can also offer a more accessible route to understanding maths.

Later, once your painted leaves have dried, you can turn them into mobiles. With these easy to follow instructions from Muddy Faces, it’s simple for all ages. This final step is when the children may need a little help from teachers with tying the string around the twig, and they may need a demonstration with piercing the leaves with a twig. However, after that, the children should be ready to craft independently.

Once finished, these are lovely craft items which can be hung outdoors at school or would make for a lovely feature in gardens at home.

Returning to school in September this year will be challenging more than most, but brilliant teachers, resilient pupils and little tricks like this will help make the transition a little bit easier. If you would like any further resources to help support the transition back to school, Twinkl has created a range of resources in line with the UK’s Recovery Curriculum.

About the Author

Liv Corp is a Content Executive at Twinkl Educational Publishing, which provides over 650,000 teacher-made resources. These include everything from worksheets to print at home, original storybooks sent to your door and interactive online resources including educational games and videos.

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The past, the present and the future of school travel

Blog post written by Caroline Cudworth, Marketing Assistant Manager at Rayburn Tours.

2020 – the year the world came to a standstill. No one ever saw it coming, but in a matter of weeks flights stopped, borders closed and people around the world were asked to ‘stay at home’.

As the UK went into lockdown in late March, so did the schools, and for school tour operator Rayburn Tours, this made the situation even more complicated.

Managing Director, Jamie Boyden, commented:
“We were challenged on both ends of our operational chain. We were dealing with cancelled trips for schools – many of which had staff working remotely, and in some cases, not easily able to make contact with all parents – and we were dealing with suppliers in countries that are also in lockdown and in some cases unable to respond.”

Whilst the challenges kept coming with the ever-evolving situation, Rayburn Tours did everything in their power to ensure their customers were kept in the loop, dealt with as swiftly as possible and, most importantly, not left out of pocket. Jamie Boyden went on to say:

“We’ve always been proud of our individual, tailored service. For decades, we’ve been telling schools how we work with each client individually to provide them with the tour that matches their needs, and in times like these it’s never been so important to be dealt with as an individual.”

Rayburn Tours recently announced their number one aim was to ensure their clients were not left out of pocket by a situation that was beyond anyone’s control. Whether they postponed tours, helped groups claim on their insurance or issued a refund, the team worked tirelessly to ensure their clients wouldn’t lose out financially – and the work still continues!

“Does this approach mean it takes longer for all clients to get a resolution? Unfortunately, yes, as we are liaising with airlines, hoteliers and range of suppliers all around the world. But the pay-off is that it ensures our clients get the best outcome for their group.”

“Many have chosen to postpone their tour to 2021 in the anticipation that normal travel will resume. However, for groups where this is not possible and a refund is being issued, we are committed to doing everything we can to achieve this in 12-16 weeks.”

And it seems that this level of customer service, and the ability to be able to offer financial peace of mind, has given schools the confidence to start thinking about the future.

“Schools are still booking trips for 2021 with us which is fantastic to see, as it means they’re still keen to give their students the opportunity to learn in some of the most incredible destinations around the world – and we’re pleased to be able to help them facilitate this safely and confidently.”

So what does the future of travel look like? Well, the answer is, we simply don’t know! Tour operators like Rayburn Tours will continue to monitor the developing situation closely, continue to communicate with clients, and adapt what they do to offer as much flexibility as possible to help schools plan future trips and, eventually, travel.

We must be optimistic that a level of normality will return in all areas of our lives soon and, for our own mental health, we must give ourselves something to look forward to. And that thing is travel.

About the Author
Caroline Cudworth is the Marketing Assistant Manager at Rayburn Tours. Caroline and her team’s role is to inspire schools to take learning outside the classroom, within the UK, Europe and beyond.
Rayburn Tours is an independent, family-run business that has been dedicated to providing tailor-made, international tours for groups since 1965; specialising in Educational Trips, Ski Trips and Sports Tours for schools, as well as Concert Tours for all types of youth and adult ensembles.

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The space to learn

Responding to the impact Covid-19 has had on learning and meeting guidelines around physical distancing is requiring schools to be innovative in how they deliver the curriculum and support pupil health and wellbeing, writes Justine Lee from the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom.

In recognition of the consequence of a sustained period of absence from school on the mental health of pupils, both the Welsh and Scottish governments and have put outdoor learning at the heart of their guidance to schools on reopening more widely. The Department for Education in England has also recommended that schools utilise outdoor spaces in their planning.

The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom is campaigning for more schools to re-evaluate how and where they teach.

Dr Anne Hunt, chief executive at the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, said: “Teaching doesn’t have to take place in school buildings. Moving outside or utilising other spaces within the local community means teachers will be able to deliver the curriculum safely and effectively whilst ensuring they meet government guidelines on physical distancing.

“Children and young people are dealing with high levels of disruption, uncertainty and a lack of physical connection with their friends and with the natural world and the inequalities are widening. Learning outside the classroom offers a well-evidenced intervention – with almost universal availability and at very low cost – that can make such a big difference to so many children and young people.”

Space to learn

Thanks to a long tradition of using outdoor learning, Kendall Primary School in Essex has been able to welcome over 100 children back to school since the beginning of June.

Lewis Barrett-Rodger, deputy head teacher, said: “When planning to re-open, we knew that our well-established outdoor learning would be essential in maintaining social distancing and keeping our staff and pupils safe whilst at school. Being outside gives our children more space to learn and helps them to keep apart from each other where necessary. We also know from the science that being outside reduces the risk of transmission.

“In the midst of such a traumatic event for many people, the children’s wellbeing has been at the forefront of lessons. Children have been encouraged to talk about their experiences of lockdown and express their hopes and fears for the future. Being in the outdoors is a great way to improve children’s mood and develop their positive mental wellbeing. Not only does it give the children space to run around and let off steam, the outdoors also provides the perfect soundtrack and atmosphere for relaxation and meditation. Sit Spots have been used with children across the school this week. In lessons, children are invited to find a quiet spot in the outdoors and sit. This gives them time for contemplation and a moment to reflect.”

However, many schools don’t have ready access to outdoor space. In recognition of this, Edinburgh City Council has offered all schools in the city its green spaces for use as ‘outdoor classrooms’. Parks, woodlands and natural heritage sites can all now be used to help schools increase pupil capacity when they reopen in August. The Council hopes that this extra space will enable schools to increase the amount of face-to-face learning time they can offer their pupils.

In London, The Garden Classroom is supporting a school in Hackney to overcome the challenges it faces as a result of restrictions due to Covid19. After discussions with a church adjacent to the school, pupils now have access to a large secure garden area in the church’s grounds where they can take part in curriculum-linked games and nature-connection activities.

The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom is encouraging schools to think creatively about how and where learning takes place and has brought together the leading bodies and associations involved in learning outside the classroom and who are ready and able to support schools to develop their curriculum by taking their lessons beyond the classroom.

Dr Hunt said: “Educational visit providers have been hit exceptionally hard by the Covid19 restrictions, and many are facing an uncertain future. These venues, providers, attractions and destinations provide an invaluable service to schools, helping teachers to extend classroom-based learning and giving pupils the opportunity to apply their learning in real world settings.”

“We have an opportunity to think more creatively about other suitable learning spaces. Museums, galleries, sacred places and so on are all standing empty. As the Garden Classroom has shown, there are opportunities for teachers to talk to partners and providers about utilising these local spaces to accommodate their pupils in ways that respect government guidance on social distancing.”

The consortium, which represents over 500 organisations, believes that helping schools to deliver programmes of regular, progressive lessons outside the classroom will help schools deliver their curriculum safely and effectively, deliver benefits to pupil health and wellbeing – at home and at school – build better home/school learning partnerships by enabling teachers to develop consistent learning experiences for all their pupils whether at home or school, and mitigate against widening inequalities resulting from school closures.

Heart of England Forest is working with its local schools in Warwickshire to help pupils re-establish relationships, learn to play together in new ways and reclaim a sense of freedom after the limitations of lockdown and ongoing limitations of social distancing.

To help schools and ensure the programme was successful, Heart of England Forest worked closely with its schools and deliver a whole day of activities on its site for each school. This meant that parents could drop and collect children directly at the forest reducing the need for alternative transport, maintaining pre-existing ‘bubbles’ for learning and play activities and mirroring each school’s risk assessment so staff enforce the school’s rules rather than introducing a different set of rules which might be confusing and unsettling for the children.

Elaine Skates from the Heart of England Forest’s learning team, said: “Schools have been able to use our site and programme to provide positive transition experiences, particularly for year 6 pupils who may have missed out on celebration school trips. And our focused and hands-on curriculum learning have also enabled pupils to ‘catch-up’ with lost curriculum time.”

The hiatus brought on by Covid19 provides schools with the chance to use this period to build confidence and embed a culture of learning outside the classroom. By doing this, schools will build a strong foundation to support a programme of progressive learning beyond the classroom going forward, which will help realise the immense benefits for pupils, schools and providers of services to schools too.

Dr Hunt continued: “Covid19 has impacted on all our lives and will continue to do so for many months to come. It has however presented the opportunity for society to re-look at the way teaching is delivered and to be innovative in how it does this. We are hopeful that a better approach to learning will emerge, with greater recognition of the importance of learning in different places and spaces, and the value this brings for children, young people, teachers, schools and the wider community.”

About the Author
Justine Lee is Communications and Fundraising Manager at the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, which runs the LOtC Mark for schools, the LOtC Quality Badge for providers and venues, and CPD training for teachers.

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Helping children stay sun safe

Each year, thousands of schools participate in the Soltan Sun Ready Schools programme, which has provided over half a million children across the UK with tips on how to stay safe in the sun.

Due to the closure of many schools in the UK, children are now spending more time in their gardens or outdoor space. That’s why Boots Soltan is making sure this important sun safety message still reaches young people by providing parents and teachers access to their Sun Ready Schools resources on their Family Hub.

Their resources are curriculum-linked and include activities such as the Sun Ready Show, Sun Ready Poster Challenge and the Soltan Sun Ready Challenge app so children can have fun whilst embedding sun-safe habits that last a lifetime.

Boots Soltan has also partnered with Macmillan Cancer Support to help make sure families stay safe in the summer sun. Take a look at their advice from the experts below, including tips on how to apply sun cream on children and how to keep little ones protected and Sun Ready.

How to apply sun cream on children
Getting kids to stay still for long enough to apply sun cream can be challenging! Here are a few tips on how you can ensure the sun cream is applied effectively and that you’re providing the best protection for your children:

  • Apply indoors, before going out in the sunshine; this will make sure the sun cream has sunk in and is ready to work before your child goes into the sun.
  • Use sun cream with a high SPF (30 or above) and a 5-star UVA rating to ensure your kids have high protection against the sun’s damaging UV rays.
  • Use plenty; most people do not apply enough, make sure you follow the instructions on the bottle to ensure you’ve got the protection that you need.
  • Remember those delicate areas. Make sure to cover all exposed skin evenly, including the face, neck and arms and encourage your kids to cover up their skin by wearing a hat and long sleeves. Reapply every two hours so that the protection doesn’t wear off. Even water-resistant sun cream can rub off so put more on after swimming and towel drying.
  • Have fun when applying; make the process fun for your children and get them to take part. Why not recite a poem while you do it – rub in the cream to the beat!

Keeping young babies safe
Be extra careful with children under six months; babies’ skin is much more sensitive than adult skin. Keep babies under the age of six months out of direct sunlight at all times.

Explaining the need for sun protection to children
Applying sun cream may seem boring, but once kids learn about how it protects them from the sun’s rays, they’ll be more likely to regularly reapply. Try applying sun cream to each other to make it more interactive. Once they’re in a routine of applying their cream before sun exposure, it will become a habit and set them up for protecting their skin in the future.

You can also use Soltan’s Sun Ready activity resources, available on their Sun Ready website, which help teach children about the importance of protecting themselves in the sun in a fun and engaging way!


About Boots Soltan
Boots UK want to help young people start sun safe habits that last a lifetime. Our free curriculum-linked teaching and family resources and will get children making the most of the great outdoors, having fun and keeping sun safe!

About Macmillan Cancer Support
Boots UK and Macmillan Cancer Support are working together to provide cancer information and support on the high street. For more information visit www.boots.com/macmillan.

If you or anyone you know has questions or concerns about cancer, talk to Macmillan on 0808 808 00 00, open 7 days a week, 8am – 8pm or visit www.macmillan.org.uk.

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Top teacher tips for home schooling Primary aged children

Blog post written by Caroline Cudworth, Marketing Assistant Manager at Rayburn Tours.

Let’s get down to giving you some advice and tips from teachers that may just help you educate, develop and entertain you child at home while the schools are closed.

1. Take the pressure off!
First things first, teachers tell us that we need to remember that this is not ‘home schooling’ in the strictest sense. Home schooling has vast support networks, children are able to leave the house and go on visits and parent-teachers will have done extensive research and planning before deciding on home schooling. This situation is somewhat different due to the fact that we were all suddenly thrown into this and no one had time to prepare. So the first tip is…take the pressure off yourselves!
Mrs Wadsworth, teacher at Borrow Wood Primary School said, “I’ve been a teacher for over 13 years now and have taught all of the age groups from reception to Year 6. Suddenly, I had my two children at home and I thought ‘I’ve got this! How hard can it be?’. I began to plan all sorts of exciting activities – but it didn’t, hasn’t and won’t always go to plan. It’s not easy, even for us teachers, so as parents all we can do is our best!”

2. Have a plan for the day
Mrs Allen, teacher at Portland Spencer Academy, advises having a structure for the day. She says, “this doesn’t need to be really strict or tight, but children and adults like some sort of routine however loose that may be. A bit of structure will help your children to feel safe and secure. A good way to think of it is like little bursts of learning mixed with lots of independent and outdoor play.”
Top tips:

    • Make it visible so that the children can see what their day has in store.
    • Ask your children what they would like to include in their day, it may help them engage with the activities better.
    • Be flexible! If an idea works, then go with it. If an idea doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to bin it and move on.
    • Be prepared for it to not always go to plan! Some days the plan will just go out of the window, and that’s ok!

3. Have more than one child? Use holding activities!
The challenge is even harder if you have more than one child at home. Mrs Wadsworth recommends using ‘holding activities’.
“Teaching two children of very different ages and abilities is hard, especially if one is in reception and used to play- based informal learning. My tip would be to give one a ‘holding activity’ such as drawing, colouring or Lego while you give the other your attention and then swap.”

4. Include physical exercise and free play
Why not start the day with some exercise to get the body and the mind kick-started? The Bodycoach, aka Joe Wickes, is leading a live PE workout on his YouTube channel every weekday at 9am. It’s a 30-minute workout designed for children (and still challenging adults everywhere!) that’s a perfect way to start the day.
Young children also need breaks, so be sure to include plenty of time for independent and outdoor play. This give you a chance to grab a cuppa and enjoy a well-earned break too!

5. Get creative with your methods
Mrs Allen suggests getting creative with your learning methods. “For younger ones especially, don’t always feel that they have to write it all down on paper. Why not think about writing words in salt or flour in a tray, or getting outside and using a paintbrush and water on the fence. It’s different to something they might do at school and won’t fail to get them engaged.”

6. Use everyday things to count, problem solve and measure
We’ve got the best teaching resources anyone could wish for all around us when we’re at home. Count up the penny jar, organise the superhero figures into height order, do some baking or reorganise the pan drawer to make them all fit back in – there are plenty of things to do around the house that keep your child learning. Don’t force it though, keep working small activities in throughout the day.

7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Mrs Butterworth suggests “take the advice of the teacher and use the activities they have planned for your child so that you don’t have to take on too much planning yourself. And remember, we’re still here, albeit behind a screen, so don’t ever be worried about asking for help!”

8. Communication is key!
Headteacher, Mrs Weston, says, “in the first instance it’s all about communicating with them. Our number one priority is to help them feel safe and secure in these difficult times.”
She goes on to advise “think about giving them experiences around the house, encouraging them to help with simple daily chores such as the cooking, cleaning and tidying up. When watching things, talk about what they are watching and encourage them to think about what might happen next and why. When reading stories to them, ask them questions and even encourage them to make up their own endings.”

9. There’s a place for screen time
We all need a break so don’t be afraid of letting them watch TV or spending sometime on the iPad. Everything in moderation, right?

10. Try and enjoy!
Mrs Allen says, “as parents, we will probably never be asked to do this again so try and enjoy this extra time with your children and embrace your inner-teacher. Just go with it!”
Remember, you’re trying your best!

We’ve all been thrown in to this mad situation together so all you can do is try your best. If today’s not going to plan, then enjoy the PJ day, build a den and read some books…there’s always tomorrow!

About the Author
Caroline Cudworth is the Marketing Assistant Manager at Rayburn Tours. Caroline and her team’s role is to inspire schools to take learning outside the classroom, within the UK, Europe and beyond.
Rayburn Tours is an independent, family-run business that has been dedicated to providing tailor-made, international tours for groups since 1965; specialising in Educational Trips, Ski Trips and Sports Tours for schools, as well as Concert Tours for all types of youth and adult ensembles.

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Top teacher tips for home schooling Secondary aged children

Blog post written by Caroline Cudworth, Marketing Assistant Manager at Rayburn Tours.

Before we jump right in, “well done parents, you are doing a fantastic job!”

Now that has been said, let’s get down to giving you some advice and tips from teachers that may just help you educate, develop and entertain you child at home while the schools are closed.

1. Try and stick to their normal timetable structure
Most people thrive better when they have a routine and whilst it’s tempting to throw all routine out the window, it really will help when it comes to your child’s learning. English teacher, Miss Malone, encourages her students to “do English when they would normally have English, take their normal (and regular) breaks and finish working when the school day would usually finish”. If your child knows what their day holds, and when it’s due to finish, they’re more likely to focus and apply themselves.

2. It doesn’t need to be a full school day
Mrs Brown, Head of English at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Ashbourne, recommends making every lesson shorter than the usual hour they would have at school. “Lessons are that length at school because there’s approximately 30 children in the class. 1:1, 1:2 or even 1:3 ratios means the work can be done in a lot less time.” Less time on the usual lessons, means more time for practical learning…which leads us nicely on to our next top tip!

3. Encourage practical learning too!
It’s not all about the reading, writing and maths, it’s great to encourage your child to do some practical lessons too. Mrs Brown says, “all kids (even GCSE) have some practical lessons but younger ones especially are used to learning through play. Build a bird box or hedgehog hotel, put up a shelf or make a double bed (a challenge for any of us).”

4. Exercise is key!
Mrs Bowler, teacher at De Ferrers Academy Trust, remind us to not forget the power of exercise. “Children spend around an hour and 20 minutes or more outside playing each day, as well as PE lessons – factor it into the home schooling so that they can have some time away from the table.”

There are plenty of online exercise classes going on at the moment, so why not let your child choose what they want to do? Looking for some inspiration…check out Rayburn Tours’ blog on the ‘top free online exercise classes‘.

5. Let the creative juices flow
It’s really important not to put too much pressure on students at this time. Miss Malone says, “from what I’ve seen, teachers are setting work to continue students learning but we are also mindful that we’re in strange, emotional times and it’s important to remember that! It’s a great time to let kids take on some creative projects. I’ve asked my students to do a photo journal of something they’ve enjoyed each day and write something about it. There are some other nice projects for well being out there!”

If you child’s teachers haven’t set any creative tasks then why not do a little research and set one of your own?

6. Help build independent learning and research skills
This type of learning will be very alien to your child (and you!) and so now is a great time to talk to them about how independent learning and research skills are important skills to develop for A level, University and life. Encouraging older students to take more ownership of their learning is a great way to start building these skills.

7. Tap into your home resources
As parents, you have an array of resources that teachers don’t have and they’re lying all around the house. Cook, bake, sew, paint, do some gardening – it’s real world, real life education at its finest!

8. Rewards can help
Mrs Bowler suggests, “use rewards just as school does. If your child is really focused and is showing a positive attitude to learning, use a rewards chart and plan to do something exciting once isolation is over!”

9. There’s a place for screen time
We all need a break so don’t be afraid of letting them watch TV or spending sometime on the iPad. Everything in moderation, right?

10. Forgive!
Miss Brown reminds us that forgiveness is key! She says, “the most important tip I could give parents is to forgive. Firstly, yourself – it’ll go wrong, you’ll get frustrated, it’s fine. And always forgive them. They’ll get mad, frustrated and upset, and they’ll say things they don’t mean. Forgive them and give them a clean slate every time.”

We’ve all been thrown in to this mad situation together so all you can do is try your best. If today’s not going to plan, then there’s always tomorrow!

About the Author
Caroline Cudworth is the Marketing Assistant Manager at Rayburn Tours. Caroline and her team’s role is to inspire schools to take learning outside the classroom, within the UK, Europe and beyond.
Rayburn Tours is an independent, family-run business that has been dedicated to providing tailor-made, international tours for groups since 1965; specialising in Educational Trips, Ski Trips and Sports Tours for schools, as well as Concert Tours for all types of youth and adult ensembles.

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Why can I not go on a life changing opportunity?

Blog post written by: Steve Dool, Chair of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom.

Covid- 19 is the greatest challenge society has faced in our lifetime. It is a crisis second to none, it will test our attitudes, approach and response to the limit. It will shape our thinking and behaviour for the rest of our lives.

We can perhaps all point to what made a difference in our lives. It may have been a person or an experience but more than likely a combination of both. I firmly believe, as do the vast majority of school leaders and teachers, providing developmental experiences which help to inform and change young people’s lives are crucial to their future success.

Educational visits and their capacity to bring learning alive and create life changing experiences play a vital part in helping our young people to realise their potential.

The impact of Covid-19 on the availability of these immediate opportunities is significant and, often shattering for all those who have had visits cancelled when they were looking forward to them so much. My own daughter is one who had to return home early from a once in a lifetime back packing tour of Australia and New Zealand that had only just started. My old school had to pull 100 students out of a sports tour to Cape Town while a friend cancelled her school ski course to Italy days before departure with the official visit sweatshirts, complete with school logo and details of the expedition, already issued. All so hard to manage and deal with but not in the same ball park as what we all face today.

The priority at this time is staying at home, protecting the NHS and saving lives and it’s important we are all resolute and focused on the social distancing strategy that will get us through this extraordinary challenge. Our reliance and respect for our magnificent health workers, care staff and other key workers is evident and well deserved.

It’s been inspiring and heartening to observe the massive range of ideas, resources and improvised activities that have been promoted on social media and from organisations passionate about using the natural environment as a place of learning. Searching for insects and birds in the garden, daily workouts and skills challenges, online chats and conferences with friends at home and abroad, cooking, drawing, building and fixing have all featured and I would observe, being enjoyed, by millions of young people. We must offer our congratulations to parents and relatives who have used their imagination and creativity to use the home and its surroundings as a learning space, and a place for personal development. Also, recognising and supporting the mental health and well-being issues that result are all key issues that we need to acknowledge and address.

‘Some of the best learning opportunities are those that take place in real life scenarios’

This crisis makes me reflect and realise that some of the best learning opportunities are those that take place in real life scenarios away from the classroom. It reinforces in my mind the case for developing the school curriculum to embrace learning in different spaces as a way of improving knowledge, understanding, retention and recall along with motivation, enthusiasm and commitment.

So, what happens when we return to school. It will not be possible to simply “switch the light back on.” Learning in the future will look very different to that we experience now. We will not forget or ignore what we have witnessed in these times of improvisation and creative thinking.

The place of learning outside the classroom and the benefits for mental health and well-being will become more apparent than ever before and school leaders will be searching for ways in which to deepen the learning experience. We will need to provide curriculum and a range of opportunities that can build on the stimulating and inspiring things that have been shared between parents, teachers, communities, voluntary organisations and the media. The importance of also recognising that our disadvantaged young people may have grown in number and the gap may have widened, places an increased responsibility on schools and other organisations to make sure such opportunities are an entitlement for all, not just those fortunate to have a strong support network around them.

As we move on, our school based colleagues, in extreme conditions, are dealing with massive challenges involving not only trying to continue to develop our young people but also being involved in life and death situations within their communities.

‘So, what happens when we return to school. It will not be possible to simply “switch the light back on.” We will not forget or ignore what we have witnessed in these times of improvisation and creative thinking.’

As we move from crisis to resilience and recovery, my advice to providers of educational visits and learning outside the classroom activity is you have a critical part to play. You must be ready and prepared for an avalanche of interest in your programmes. You must spend your days creatively designing and preparing new and innovative opportunities for school groups, that will be even more flexible, appealing and attractive to young people, school leaders and teachers in the months and years to come.

Your involvement and contribution will become more valuable than ever before. Looking to the future and planning to secure the right opportunities for all our young people will be of paramount importance. It will help to ensure our children have the broad and balanced curriculum they need, enriched by high quality opportunities. We have a key role in unlocking potential and discovering real talent that will add so much to regenerating our economy and supporting our future prosperity and well- being as a nation.

I appreciate for those that have had their visits and activities cancelled this has been a real blow. However, let’s overcome this pandemic and seize the opportunity to embark on the experience of a lifetime at some point in the future.

Finally, many colleagues, friends, families and communities face a period of uncertainty, illness and worry and my thoughts and prayers are with you.

 

About the Author

Former headteacher of Neston High School in Cheshire, Steve is now Chair of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom.

Steve has extensive experience in a wide range of activities that have enhanced learning and made a significant contribution to high achievement for young people.

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School trips and Language Learning

Blog post written by: Jenn Parker, Digital Content Co-ordinator for educational travel providers Adaptable Travel.

In 2019, it was revealed that sadly the UK was facing a decline in students opting to study languages at GCSE and A-level. Amongst the reasons for this was student perception, with many students deterred by their perception of languages as difficult subjects.

As a teacher it’s fantastic when you are able to bring a subject to life and share your passion with your students, but it can be disheartening when students lose faith in a subject. However, immersive and engaging school trips and extra-curricular experiences could be the answer to engagement issues surrounding modern foreign languages (MFL). Offering plenty of opportunities to show students that these trips and activities allow the curriculum can be explored by learners of all types.

Experiences such as residential trips allow your students to immerse themselves in the subject in a dynamic and engaging way helping to dispel any myths and doubts and ultimately connecting your students with their curriculum. As you and your group engage with each other in new and vibrant settings, it is the perfect opportunity to maximise engagement and learning, bringing the subject to life and tying classroom learning to experiences, which can prove particularly useful when handling challenging topics.

Without further ado, let’s discuss what language can trips do for your students and how to unlock the potential of an MFL trip!

Bring learning to life
It can certainly be argued that language studies have a natural appeal to aural and verbal learners, as a majority of curriculum activity centres around students developing and utilising these skills. However, school trips and educational visits offer an opportunity for all types of learners to interact with the language and its core principles. As your students explore a range of immersive experiences language skills will start to appeal to logical and social thinkers too! School trips and the array of activities which come with them allow your students to navigate through visits with a combination of their skills, reading, interacting with native speakers and utilising opportunities to develop their skills in relaxed, real-life settings.

Explore culture and identity
School trips can often serve as students’ first and only times travelling internationally, offering them a completely unique opportunity to explore cultures outside of their own. Exploring cultures in this way can help your students cement their understanding of core language principles, as they discover more about the national identity, history and culture of the language they study. In doing so, languages become opportunities for your students to engage with the world around them experiencing the rich tapestry of cultures, faiths and histories which make up our globe. As they explore new countries, cities and experiences first-hand your class will develop personal experiences as well as ones they share with the peers. Given that peer contact informs much of their understanding of the world around them, shared experiences help students to connect with each other driving engagement and conversation in the classroom.

Boost skills and confidence
Learning a language is undoubtedly a process which takes time, effort and consistency, all of which have their foundations in structured classroom activities and regular sessions. However, a languages trip offers your students an opportunity to put their skills to the test, developing their aural and verbal skills with comfort and confidence in authentic environments. Speaking a foreign language can be daunting, particularly for beginners and those newly embracing a new language. Cue a language trip, the perfect way for your students to dive into language practice. Travelling with a group your students will rely on their strengths and develop their weaknesses in a pressure free, relaxed environment benefitting from the comfort of their friends, classmates and teachers all while embracing the opportunity to get key practice with native speakers. As they discover the value of their skills your students will feel inspired to speak more regularly, with a confidence backed up by experience.

Listen to the figures
As teachers we’re sure that you’re no strangers to school trip struggles, from costing to places and of course approval, the process can sometimes seem a gamble. However, the good news for language students is that schools are more likely to approve and run MFL trips than any other subject! According to the 2019 STF Residential Survey, a whopping 70% of schools organised language trips throughout 2018 and 2019. This means that although school trips come with their difficulties, school approval and student engagement with languages trips seems to be growing. These figures suggest that there’s never been a better time to look into language trips, removing much of the risk of school trip planning with higher rates of school approval and student engagement.

Shop around
The importance of shopping around for the best deal and package has never been more prominent, as further data from the recent STF Residential Survey displays. Amongst the factors which influence school trips the top 5 across over 200 UK schools included parental cost, school budget, term time travel and time management with others including paperwork and workload as well as educational value. Shopping around and knowing exactly what you want from a trip will not only help with the success of the planning process but also help the trip to run smoothly from start to finish.

Final advice:
To help you maximise the impact of your next language trip here’s some final tips that are definitely worth noting before you book:

Reduce Paperwork, Time management and Workload
A sure-fire way to reduce the paperwork and admin duties of a school trip is to work with a travel operator. Often the process for this involves requesting an initial quote, confirming student numbers and choosing from a selection of curriculum activities on offer at specified destinations. An important thing to remember when using services like this is that there is likely some level of correspondence necessary between yourself and the operator during the operation and booking stages. However, you can rest assured that a majority of the logistical, costing, booking and planning will be done for you and this often comes with ABTA and ATOL assurances. If you’re unsure of which providers to use STF (School Travel Forum), CLOtC (Council for Learning outside the Classroom) and ABTA or ATOL certified members are your best bet for ensuring peace of mind that you’re getting the best service possible.

Reduce Parental and School Costs
There’s a number of ways to keep cost down to a minimum when booking a trip.

  1. Competitive Pricing – Price matches, price promises and similar guarantees will give you peace of mind that you’re travelling at the best possible price.
  2. Travel Options – You can also cut costs by quoting on a number of travel options including air, train and coach so ensuring that your provider can arrange various travel options will help control cost.
  3. Free Staff Places – Checking what offers your travel providers run on staff places and ratio allowances will help keep school costs to a minimum, increasing the chances of trip approval.
  4. Student Numbers – It’s probably a given that the more interest in a trip the lower individual costs will be as most providers cost based on paying travellers. If you are running short on numbers, it might be useful to consider cross curriculum trips allowing two or more subjects to benefit from low cost travel and opportunities to explore what destinations have to offer. Although if travelling by coach it’s worth noting the number of passengers per coach, to avoid a costly supplement for additional coaches.

About the Author
Jenn Parker is the Digital Content Co-ordinator for educational travel providers Adaptable Travel.
In her role Jenn uses her passion for travel and adventure to inspire groups of all ages to use travel to embrace the cultures, histories and identities of the world around them.
Adaptable Travel is an educational travel provider offering safe, cost effective and innovative school trips and college tours across the UK and internationally. With over 25 years of experience in educational travel our trips aim to stimulate learning with bespoke curriculum itineraries designed to bring learning to life.

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Improving Wellbeing by Learning Outside the Classroom

Blog post written by Andy Pratt, Head of Group (West) and Wellbeing Lead at Field Studies Council (FSC).

There is increasing research supporting that time in the outdoors and nature connection improves health and wellbeing. At FSC we are all working towards the 2025 vision which has a cross-cutting theme to improve wellbeing running through everything we do.

Rachel Manning, a PhD Researcher at FSC Slapton Ley is providing research and evidence to underpin our approach. The conclusions from the PhD will provide invaluable recommendations to improve the quality of the FSC learning experience.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing is a set of evidence-based public mental health messages aimed at improving the mental health and wellbeing of the whole population. They were developed by NEF (the New Economics Foundation). The Five Ways to Wellbeing have been used across the UK since their launch in 2008 and provides a common language for FSC and other organisations to communicate a contribution to wellbeing.

Keep Learning
Learning about urban and natural environments.

Connect
A shared experience. Developing new or better relationships in the outdoors. Seeing others in a different way and meeting new people.

Being Active
Being outdoors in the fresh air, walking and doing practical activity from ecological surveys to adventure activities or conservation.

Take Notice
Being in the natural environment with opportunities for awe and wonder from the smallest creatures to the largest landscapes.

Give
Working together in groups, learning ecological skills and contributing to our sustainable Centres.

At FSC we are pleased to be working alongside YoungMinds, The Sensory Trust and Groundwork UK on Nature Friendly Schools (NFS), a £6.4 million, four-year Department for Education funded project, which was awarded to The Wildlife Trusts.

The project aims to demonstrate and understand how an increase in supported delivery of high-quality activities in natural environments, for pupils in schools with the highest proportion of disadvantaged pupils, contributes to improved mental health and wellbeing, engagement with school and other key project outcomes.

We are focussing on six ‘soft outcomes’ for NFS residentials and day visits, which have been informed by the Young Minds Academic Resilience Approach:

  • Developing social skills and teamwork
  • Encourage adventurous play
  • Foster interests
  • Improve problem solving
  • Support children to have fun
  • Support children to find places of calm

We are working on a number of other projects all with an aim to improve wellbeing:

  • Our Bright Future (OBF) – This is a national £33 million programme funded by National Lottery Community Fund and managed by Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts. It is a forward-thinking social movement that supports young people to lead progressive change in their communities and local environment.
  • Vision England – This is delivered by Sense which provides residential opportunities at a number of our centres for visually impaired.
  • Growing Confidence – In partnership with Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Fordhall Farm. This is a project which aims to build skills and confidence in young people through funded environmental activities.
  • Green Futures – This is hosted by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust and involves FSC as delivery partners at FSC Malham Tarn. It includes several strands all developing wellbeing and life skills in young people but particularly the annual Youth Environment Summit, planned, organised and delivered by young people.
  • Green Guardians – This is a part of the Green Futures project that gets young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into the outdoors to do various activities.
  • City of Sanctuary Hosting Weekend – Now in the 5th year of involvement for FSC this is a really important weekend involving the local community and refugee families from Leeds. It’s hard to emphasise the impact this has on both the refugee families who attend and the families in the local community who host.

We are continually being shown that wellbeing is in the forefront of educator’s minds. Reports we receive from group leaders after the many residentials which have been subsidised or provided for by our bursary fund and kids fund refer to the benefits and improvement in wellbeing seen in young people.

About the Author
Based in Devon, Andy Pratt is the lead for Health and Wellbeing for Field Studies Council (FSC). He is also responsible for operations of 6 residential FSC Centres in the South West and Wales.
FSC is a charity providing first hand experiences in the outdoors. We want to create a world where everyone feels connected to the environment so they can enjoy the benefits it gives and make choices that help protect it.

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