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.
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 LOtC
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.uk
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- Launch of Brilliant Residentials campaign. Demonstrating the impact we can 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
- 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
Elaine 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.