This week’s blog comes to us from Juno Hollyhock, Executive Director at Learning Through Landscapes.
One of the repetitive messages that circulate within our sector is the refrain that says if Ofsted were more supportive of learning in the natural environment then schools would find it easier to engage.
Many times we have been told by schools that this would make all the difference.
Many of us have sighed over our coffee and wished that Ofsted understood how good the benefits were.
I suspect quite a lot of research has been commissioned to try to prove the positive impact on educational attainment in the hope that it might make Ofsted listen and better promote the use of teaching and learning outside.
Well here’s the thing.
We have it all back to front.
Ofsted are not here to promote a pedagogy, any pedagogy. They are here to inspect the quality of teaching and learning in a school and how well it helps all children from all starting points to make their required progress over time (alongside of course the essential safeguarding etc).
The new common inspection framework (finally applicable in equal measure across all settings) focuses heavily on the culture of the leadership and how that leadership ensures that all learners make strong progress. If they see schools using the natural environment to make that happen then that is terrific.
But if they see schools using an interactive whiteboard to make that happen then, arguably, this does not help our cause.
One of the strongest features for me of the new framework is that it will include current providers of good or outstanding educational institutions alongside the HMI – now is our chance to harness the experience of those who already value learning in the natural environment and encourage them to share their examples of good practice.
Another feature is the important new judgement on personal development, behaviour and welfare which gives us a huge opportunity to draw on the evidence that we have that shows how this is impacted by using the natural environment as a resource for learning and play.
So – what can we do with this information?
As natural environment sector organisations and as schools we can:
- Work with any practitioners that we know who will be part of the new inspection framework to help them spread the word
- Encourage schools to use learning in the natural environment as their way of meeting the judgement on personal development, behaviour and welfare
- Provide schools with the evidence to convince their senior leadership teams to do this
- Show inspection teams again and again excellent examples of learning out of doors and demonstrate how this impacts on pupil progress
If Inspectors come up against superb examples of teaching and learning in the natural environment again and again then we will be getting somewhere.
Well said Juno. We need to shout from the rooftops about the research that is out there in abundance about the welfare, development and self regulated behavioural benefits of the outdoors. Play us fundamental to all this and research such as that outlined in the many play England reports and all the neuroscience research such as jaak panksepps work on the importance of play for brain derived neurotrophic factors and the release of hormones that increase our attention span…see his affective neuroscience publication. Also the freshly published belgrave report on outdoor learning see http://www.outdoor-learning.org/Default.aspx?tabid=373. The framework is a great opportunity to shout about the spiritual and moral dimensions the outdoors can promote. So we need to really push from the sector end.
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