This week’s blog comes to us from Elaine Skates, Chief Executive of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom. More information about CLOtC and a link to their newsletters can be found here.
There is a wealth of research, including Ofsted guidance, which demonstrates that learning outside the classroom (LOtC) has a greater impact on young people’s learning and development if it is integrated into the curriculum. Pokesdown Primary School in Dorset has put this theory into practice, creating an integrated and engaging LOtC curriculum for its pupils. In recognition of its good practice, the school has received LOtC Mark, the only national accreditation which recognises good practice in learning outside the classroom across the whole curriculum.
The school uses a creative integrated curriculum, which puts LOtC at the heart of learning, with learning in the natural environment an important part of this. LOtC experiences are planned into each unit of the integrated curriculum, and frequently providing the ‘initial hook’ of a unit. The purpose of LOtC at the school is to give pupils progressive learning experiences which help them to develop as independent learners, and policies and procedures are in place to support this.
The strategy and practical aspects of embedding LOtC into the curriculum are made clear in a comprehensive LOtC Policy, which sits alongside the Educational Visits Policy. This policy sets out the rationale for providing LOtC opportunities, as well as detailing the overall aims for LOtC provision and the strategies for ensuring its success. Strategies include designing a learning environment which encourages interaction; planning LOtC opportunities in each curriculum unit which offer continuity, progression and context for learning; involving all staff in planning LOtC; building successful partnerships with the local community to support LOtC; and sharing LOtC experiences through displays, assemblies, learning outcomes and in reporting to parents.
As part of the review and planning process to embed LOtC in the curriculum, all subject co-ordinators were asked to undertake an audit of the LOtC taking place in their subject area. This was used to identify areas for improvement and development.
One member of staff also conducted a monitoring enquiry into LOtC provision throughout the school. The enquiry asked: ‘Do pupils make decisions about how they use the school environment and are they involved in the planning and evaluation of visits and visitors?’
The enquiry revealed that all staff at the school endeavour to include children in the planning of LOtC opportunities where possible. The Reception area of the school has been developed so that the children are able to actively engage in outside learning opportunities of their own choice. In KS1, children are encouraged to participate in independent learning, taking advantage of the playground markings and the ‘Learning Zone’ connecting 2 classrooms. In KS2, children are encouraged to make their own decisions about if and when outside learning is appropriate. The children decide when to leave the classroom and how it will benefit the work that they are doing. Teachers in KS2 facilitate the independence of the children outside the classroom, providing more support in Year 3 and increasing the trust in Year 6.
Children are encouraged to complete evaluations of their educational visits and visitors as part of topic evaluations. Evaluations go beyond simply asking children whether they enjoyed the experience, and encourage them to reflect on what they have learnt and whether the visit was beneficial to their learning as part of the focus topic.
Pokesdown Primary makes good use of opportunities for LOtC in the school grounds, local community and further afield. In order to make more use of the local environment available to them, the school has rented a beach hut in Southbourne that is equipped with appropriate resources for easy use. One member of staff has completed ‘Beach Schools’ training and is implementing intervention sessions within each year group with the aim of improving attendance.
By looking at policies and planning for learning, Pokesdown Primary School has been able to develop an innovative curriculum which offers its pupils a range of engaging LOtC experiences, both in the school grounds and further afield, which are closely linked to learning outcomes. Pupils clearly enjoy their LOtC experiences, and procedures are in place to monitor the impact of LOtC experiences on their learning and development, and continue to develop the LOtC provision.
Pokesdown Primary is one of nearly 100 schools around the country which has achieved LOtC Mark. If you would like to know more about LOtC Mark, and how it can support you to develop integrated LOtC at your school, visit www.lotc.org.uk/lotc-accreditations/lotc-mark.