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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
[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 author
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
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