So much more than just a History Tour Guide…

Blog post written by: Sophie Lamb, Graphic Designer at Rayburn Tours.

When most people think of a tour guide, they picture someone at the helm of a group of people, microphone and flag in tow, reciting ‘on your left…’ and ‘on your right…’.

That wasn’t the case for Brighton Hill Community School.

In the last week of October, I accompanied Brighton Hill on their history trip to the Belgian battlefields. Keen to get the most out of their students, party leader Ms Humphries opted for two of Rayburn’s History Tour Guides for their insightful, detailed knowledge – but ended up getting so much more.

After 3 days with tour guides Trevor and Richard, I am converted. But make your own mind up – would you enlist the support of a History Tour Guide on your next trip?

It was clear from the start of my trip with Brighton Hill Community School, whilst navigating the White Cliffs of Dover, that these tour guides were going to add more than just their in-depth historical knowledge.

It all started with a phone call. Trevor and Richard gave party leader Ms Humphries a call before the tour to have a chat and understand exactly what the kids needed to know, as well as what she wanted them to get out of it. A great way to feel like you know each other before they hop on your coach!

Right from our first excursion, I was in awe of Trevor and Richard. Their level of knowledge and the passion they exuded was infectious. As someone who’s never been too invested in history as a subject, this was eye-opening for me – and I could see it was really sinking in with the kids. The knowledge our guides bring to these tours is so in-depth and specific, that the kids get so much more out of it.

“We might be able to talk about the Battle of the Somme, but there’s no way we would be able to point out the tree line where the tanks came over, or exactly where the gas attack took place.”
– Ms Humphries, Brighton Hill

Trevor and Richard made sure that it was a hands-on experience for the kids, getting them involved with reading headstones, interacting with old weapons and modelling WWI’s finest attire. As an outsider looking in, it was clear that making sure the kids were involved was an important aspect of the tour, as it really helped to make things more real and kept everyone focused.

And it was evident that the friendly faces of our guides took a huge stress off the teachers. It meant they could focus on their primary job for the trip – looking after the kids – whilst also learning themselves and absorbing the invaluable information.

But it wasn’t just the excursions that Trevor (or as he later became known, Uncle Trevor) and Richard were there to help with. They went above and beyond for the group, doing all of those things make life on tour so much easier.
They knew the area and the people like the backs of their hand. And getting sorted in restaurants and navigating French roadworks seemed as if it was just part of their makeup. To quote one of the teachers, ‘it made the entire trip seamless’.

Before we arrived in Belgium, Trevor described the process of the tour to me: ‘all we’re doing is moving the classroom from Basingstoke to the trenches…’. Whilst this is true, throughout the tour I realised that having a History Tour Guide offered so much more than just moving the classroom and having a new teacher for the weekend. Our guides bring a level of passion and knowledge that make it more than just reciting information, but about passing on real life experiences that stay with you even after the trip.

“Our guides bring a level of passion and knowledge that make it more than just reciting information, but about passing on real life experiences that stay with you even after the trip.”
– Sophie Lamb, Rayburn Tours

Putting the educational aspect to one side, not only do they become an integral part of the tour, but it was clear from the swarm of kids wanting photos with them as a memento; the chants being made up for them on the coach; and the tears falling from some of their eyes when we had to leave, that these guides became their friends and people they really admire and look up to.

We forget what it’s like to be 13 years old and in complete awe of someone so knowledgeable. Well, being in the presence of Trevor and Richard on my trip to the battlefields certainly made me remember.

“If anyone was thinking of going on tour without a guide, I would recommend that you don’t. Definitely take a guide.”
– Ms Humphries, Brighton Hill

Group travel specialists since 1965, Rayburn Tours is dedicated to creating tailor-made tours to the UK, Europe and beyond.

About the Author
Sophie Lamb works as a Graphic Designer at Rayburn Tours. Based at Rayburn House in Derby, her role is to create designs that inspire young people to seek new adventures, embrace new cultures and learn new skills.
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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School trips for all

Blog post written by: Justine Lee, Communications and Fundraising Manager at the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom.

Educational trips offer a multitude of benefits for pupils of all abilities. They help motivate, raise attainment and expose students to new experiences. They can be especially valuable to pupils who are hard to reach or who do not respond well to traditional teaching methods, for whatever reason. Children with SEN or disabilities often learn best through doing; educational trips provide pupils with real life experiences and help them develop the necessary skills to enable them to lead an independent or semi-independent life in adulthood.

For children with SEN and disabilities, as with all children, having contact with different people and environments encourages them to adapt to new situations. Making these experiences a regular part of school life provides frequent opportunities to develop pupils’ confidence and social skills while expanding their horizons and becoming more aware of the world around them.

Stimulating development
Day trips can provide memorable, fun experiences for all pupils. The benefits of a residential visit are also just as relevant to young people with SEN as they are to any other young person. Overnight trips might present a unique set of challenges, but these need not be seen as barriers to involving students with SEN or disabilities. It is important that parents understand the value of residential experiences for their child.

Trips away from school provide opportunities for pupils with SEN to develop in a number of ways, from increasing their communication and social skills to taking additional responsibility and developing essential life skills, confidence and independence.

Increasingly, teachers are seeing that getting children out and about has huge social, emotional and educational benefits, and teachers are also reaping the rewards themselves. Relationships between teachers and young people improve through shared experiences, and many teachers find new ways to relate to their pupils during school trips.

When planning a residential trip, good preparation is crucial. It is important to help pupils understand and be ready for the things they will encounter during the visit, so they are not anxious or confused when they come up against something new.

Making the trip work for all pupils

Deciding where to go
Choosing when and where to go is crucial. Decide what you want to achieve through the school trip and what kind of environment will suit your pupils. The surroundings and environment can impact significantly on the trip’s success. Going on a visit during November or January could mean the destination or venue is quieter, which will help reduce sensory overload. Choosing a venue that is close to home will help reduce travel time and minimise unsettling changes, with no early starts or late finishes.

Talk to your pupils
Help your pupils to become familiar with the chosen destination by talking about it early on. Look at maps or use online programmes or apps to show pictures of the location and the kind of activities that they will be taking part in. Build a lesson plan around the visit and encourage students to research and find out as much as they can about the destination or venue.

Talk to your chosen venue or provider
Some school trip destinations and providers have programmes which have been specially devised to meet the needs of children with SEN and disabilities. These tailored programmes can help each child to get the most out of their school trip. Involving your visit provider or venue as early as possible in the planning process will help ensure the trip is a success. Many providers are keen to work with schools to develop a programme that meets pupils’ learning outcomes and needs.

Check staff qualifications and experience
Ask your chosen venue or visit provider if any staff have relevant experience or qualifications relating to SEN or disability. This will help ensure each child’s needs are met whilst on the trip. It also means appropriate levels of support and motivation can be provided. If the pupil has a learning support assistant whilst at school, make sure they are able to join the trip too, as this will help provide continuity in terms of care.

Ask about accessible facilities
Many venues and visit providers have accessible spaces and facilities, from wheelchair friendly loos and showers to different colour schemes to make it easier to navigate around the venue. List what needs your pupils have and talk to the venue or visit provider about how these needs can be accommodated.

Undertake a familiarisation visit
A familiarisation visit will mean you know the layout of the venue or destination – for example, where the nearest accessible loos or quiet spaces are – and how to get around before you arrive with your class. You will also get the opportunity to talk to the staff who will be leading or supporting your trip.

Many venues and visit providers offer free familiarisation visits for school teachers; this includes providers of trips overseas as well as those to UK destinations. As well as being an opportunity to check facilities and resources, a familiarisation visit will give you added confidence on your school trip which in turn will help your students feel more secure.

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.

Posted in Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, SEN | Leave a comment

Happy Birthday Council for Learning Outside the Classroom!

Blog post written by: Megan Deakin, Marketing Coordinator at Rayburn Tours.

Blow up the balloons, hang out the bunting and start the celebrations because the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (CLOtC) turns 10 this year! To mark this special occasion, we take a look at what CLOtC stands for and the difference learning outside the classroom has made to the lives of pupils across the UK.

Advocating learning outside the classroom walls for all pupils as an integral part of their school career, CLOtC’s primary focus is to provide students with a rounded education.

“Over the last decade we’re delighted to have strengthened support for schools and given teachers the confidence to be more creative with the curriculum, creating life changing moments for children and young people across the UK.”
Kim Somerville, Chief Executive Officer, Council for Learning Outside the Classroom

Today there are 1,000 providers who have been awarded the LOtC Quality Badge who, together, have inspired more schools and teachers to take learning beyond the classroom environment. As a result, millions of students have been given opportunities to develop their learning in the real world – enhancing educational achievements, building character and improving wellbeing.

“We’ve also offered schools assurance about the quality of both learning and safety to a range of brilliant and exciting providers – from museums to galleries, farms to nature reserves, adventure centres to overseas expeditions. These places and spaces are creating brilliant moments of awe and wonder for young people, and we are committed to bringing more of these experiences to more children more of the time as we look to the future.”
Kim Somerville, Chief Executive Officer, Council for Learning Outside the Classroom

The purpose of the LOtC Quality Badge is to aid schools in identifying high quality and safe providers, as well as reducing the paperwork required when organising an educational visit.

When you see the LOtC Quality Badge symbol, you know that the educational provider:

  • Places emphasis on learning and skills outcomes
  • Operates in a healthy and safe environment
  • Can help to reduce or eliminate the amount of paperwork required by Local Authorities

Find out more about what CLOtC can do for you and your school by visiting

Rayburn Tours is a proud holder of the LOtC Quality Badge, meaning you can be confident in the quality of our educational experiences.

About the Author
Megan Deakin works as a Marketing Coordinator at Rayburn Tours. Based at Rayburn House in Derby, her role is to help inspire young people to seek new adventures, embrace new cultures and learn new skills.
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.

Posted in Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, Expeditions | Tagged | Leave a comment

How to best plan for accident prevention and ensure the best claims defensibility

Blog post written by: Sophia Reed, Mutual Manager, Regis Mutual Management Limited.

Fortunately, the public and courts’ perception of adventurous activities being “dangerous” has changed over recent years and instead, we now appreciate and understand the fantastic benefits which exploring the outdoors and trying new activities provide. It’s critical that children are introduced to these opportunities and derive the benefits at an early age to encourage exploration and curiosity, to learn how to deal with challenges, and to endorse achievement. They also promote a healthy lifestyle and build confidence, as well as fostering a love for the outdoors and activities, and not just computer games!

But adventurous activities are exciting for all ages! That’s their whole appeal! They take you out of your usual habitat and sometimes out of your comfort zone. Many activities are designed to provide you with adrenalin-fueled fun, others provide a more leisurely pace but all can offer an outdoor learning experience which enhance the lives of the participants.

The most popular topics of discussion raised by our AIM Members who provide these activities are accident prevention and what to do in the event of an incident. If you believe the daytime television adverts, the term “accident” means it is someone’s fault and that there is a claim to be made! Whilst accidents do happen, this is of course not always the case. Health and safety concerns are obviously important, but they should not dominate to prevent provision of these activities. I spend a good proportion of my time advising Members on accident prevention, the documentation they need to hold and what to do in the event of an incident.

Accident Prevention
Obviously, prevention is the best approach: no one wants anyone to suffer any injury, whether this is at work or whilst enjoying an adventurous activity. Millions of people take part in these adventurous activities every year without incident. That’s because providers adhere to good safety and best practice. We see that all the time with our AIM Members.
For activity providers, what are our recommendations for best practice and the defensibility of a claim should the worst happen?

Prevention starts from good practice in-house with thorough risk assessments specific to each activity or outing, a regular inspection and maintenance procedure documented when the checks are carried out, and rigorous staff training with annual refreshers. Documentation is key. It’s the first thing I look for when considering the defensibility of a claim.

Documents such as risk assessments are crucial.
You need to look at each activity, identify the risks and demonstrate what you have done to make the activity as safe as possible. This will include checking equipment, procedures for the activity and the instruction given to participants. The risk assessment will ensure that you:

  • Eliminate the risks that you can, and
  • Minimise the remainder to the lowest possible level

My recommendation is to update your risk assessments annually, but additionally when there are any changes to the activity or its provision.

Keep the records!
Good housekeeping with regular inspection and maintenance of equipment is critical to ensure that the equipment and systems are safe and in good working condition. Defects or problems can be picked up immediately and actioned. Keep records of the checks as evidence of your system! Documents are the best way of showing that you have good practices in place and have done all you can to ensure the safety of your staff, all visitors to your site and those taking part in your activities.

If you don’t retain them, it’s only your word that you carried out the checks, inspections, repairs etc. This is obviously far less compelling as evidence than being able to produce the contemporaneous document. Training staff on how documents can be the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful defence helps them to appreciate and understand their importance, and hopefully ensures that they are an accurate record of events and are completed contemporaneously

Your staff are your ambassadors
Staff reflect your business and brand. You rely on them to ensure the correct procedures are followed, the terms and conditions are read, the instruction given is accurate, well informed and understood by those taking part in the activity. Participants will remember the staff as much as the activity. Therefore, it’s crucial to make sure that all staff receive the right level of training to deliver the activity correctly, are fully competent in assisting all the participants, and can cater for all abilities. Just because you’ve worked with them a long time or they come highly recommended, the onus is on you to ensure the correct training is observed. Spend time observing them; discuss any issues or near misses and use those to learn from.

Keep talking!
Encourage an open environment where any near misses or issues are discussed so that staff feel confident in reporting these to you and you can take action to avoid an accident from occurring.

What should you do if there is an incident?
Contemporaneous photos and statements are the best evidence of the actual site, conditions, equipment and weather at the time of the incident; some or all of which may be in dispute if a claim is made.

This checklist is what your cover provider or insurer will need you to send to them:

  • Risk assessment for the activity
  • Accident report form
  • CCTV cover of the incident (if available)
  • Name of the instructor/supervisor of the activity
  • A copy of the instructor’s training records and qualifications
  • The signed T&C form or acceptance of risk form
  • Inspection/maintenance records for the activity and any relevant equipment used
  • Photos of the site
  • Statements from the staff on duty and involved in the incident and aftermath
  • Statements from all witnesses to the incident

We also find it very useful to have the following:

  • A video of the activity showing the layout and equipment used
  • Details of the weather at the time, if relevant
  • Details of any previous similar incidents and near misses, and what action was taken as a result.

Why do we need to have these documents?
Unfortunately, we live in a litigious world where claims are increasingly frequent. However, the good news is that the courts no longer simply accept that these activities must be dangerous and are willing to balance the provision of safe activities with the massive social benefits they provide. The successful defensibility of a claim relies upon evidence of accident prevention and good practice.

I hope that this guidance has endorsed that you are following the best practices within your organisation or individually, to ensure accident prevention already.
For more information visit the AIM website

About the Author
Sophia left private practice as a Partner at law firm, BLM to join AIM in January 2018 as Mutual Manager. With 24 years’ experience in personal injury litigation, she regularly defended Members’ interests and provided legal advice and risk management. A regular speaker at AIM Member events and conferences within the various sectors, she has a good understanding of the issues facing activity providers and the industry as a whole, and the importance of defending brand and reputation.

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9 ways to take your maths lessons outside

Blog post written by: Adam Harvey, Primary School Teacher in Guernsey and developer of resource website:

Maths is a great lesson to take outdoors with endless possibilities for teaching many different subject areas. I first started taking my lessons outside when I saw how much of a positive impact it had on one of my slightly more challenging students. In class I found it very difficult to motivate them, causing them to distract not only themselves, but the rest of the table! It was a subject I dreaded teaching as I was on constant high alert and would feel extremely drained after the lesson…that was until I took it outside!

I have never looked back since and, wherever possible, teach the curriculum outside of the classroom. It’s been extremely successful for me in not only in improving my enjoyment in teaching, but the children’s learning.

Here are 9 lesson ideas that I have used and developed to take maths lessons outside.

Grouping Up – A fun lesson starter (ages 4 – 12)
Outdoor lesson starters are a great way to get students out of their seats and active while practising their mathematical skills. For this activity your class will get into groups as quickly as possible based on the criteria you read out (e.g. get into a prime number/an even number/a group with 4 noses).
Download differentiated criteria sheets here:

Symmetry Ideas (ages 4 – 12)

Symmetry is a really fun and easy topic to take outside with minimal preparation.

Symmetry hunt – Find objects with 1, 2, 3, or 4 lines of symmetry. You can then get them to record their findings on a sheet, take a photo of it, or simply just let them enjoy finding symmetry – not everything has to be evidenced and assessed!

Symmetry bugs – Get your class to design and build their own symmetrical bugs using sticks.

Check out loads of outdoor symmetry ideas and resources here:

Data Handling Ideas (ages 7 – 12)
Data handling is another subject area where the opportunities for outdoor learning are endless. Below is just a few of the ideas I have used to great success:

  • Collect data about types of plants or animals in the outdoor space.
  • Measure their heart rate after different types of exercise.
  • Do litter picking and collect then look at data about the different kinds of litter you found.

For more ideas and resources check out some data handling ideas here:

Tree Height (ages 10 – 12)
Trees can be used for lots of outdoor learning activities, many of which will fit into your maths lessons. If you are looking at measurement, conversion, or estimation this is a great activity for you. Your class will estimate and measure the height of trees using only themselves, a pencil, and a ruler. You could then go on to using this information for a data handling unit.
For instruction on how to measure the height of trees check out this resource:

Compass Directions (ages 7 – 12)
In pairs, armed with a compass and record sheet, get each partner to go around your outdoor area, stand in a spot, and record what they can see at different compass headings. They will then swap sheets with their partner and try to figure out where they were stood by using the information they recorded onto the sheet. For more of a challenge, students can use more precise headings.
See this resource for more information:

Shape Hunt (ages 4 – 6)
This is a really simple but fun activity for your little ones who are looking at shape recognition. Get them to go into your outdoor space and see which different shapes they can see in the area. This can be done verbally with a teacher, learning assistant, partner, or by recording it on a record sheet.
Download the record sheet for free here:

Number Recognition (4 – 6)

There are lots of ways to look at number recognition in the outdoors. I love using task cards with simple instructions to collect a certain number of sticks, leaves, or stones. Some of the cards involve finding a simple number, others involve finding a simple number and size/colour, and more challenging cards involve finding two different numbers.
Check out the resource here:

The Human Clock (7 – 12)
Time can be a difficult subject to teach at the best of times. The human clock game makes this tricky topic active and fun for your students. Create a large clock using sticks, chalk, or anything else that works for you and read out different times, getting your students to make the time using their bodies as the clock arms while lying on the floor. This activity works really well as a whole class; however, it can also be very effective when students are working in small groups using differentiated time task cards that you can get using this link:

Addition Olympics (7 – 12)
Get your class outside, keeping fit, while doing maths! Addition Olympics is a great activity for your students to practise column addition with carrying. In pairs, get them to complete timed activities where they add their results together using column addition to get a combined score. My class absolutely love this activity and frequently play it in their own time!
Check out the activity sheets here:

I hope you have found some of these ideas helpful and are able to use them with your class. Remember, getting children to enjoy learning is half the battle and taking lessons outside can play a big part in this. Venture away from the classroom and enjoy!

About the Author
Adam Harvey is a primary school teacher from Guernsey, spending most of his time in KS2, with a huge passion for learning outside the classroom. As a child he spent the majority of his time outside, taking risks, getting muddy and, without knowing it, learning lots from doing so! Because of this, he has helped developed which gives teachers access to resources.

Posted in Learning Outside the Classroom, Maths, School Grounds | 3 Comments

My Five Years Learning Outside the Classroom at The Park Primary School, Bristol

Blog post written by: Kirstin Whitney, Primary School Teacher in Kingswood, South Gloucestershire on the outskirts of Bristol. She has taught ‘Outdoor Learning’ for the past 5 years across all ages and developed the school grounds to accommodate the outdoor lessons.

My initial brief was to setup and run ‘Forest School’ sessions in the school grounds, to me this was an exciting opportunity to combine my passion for the outdoors with my passion for teaching.

I was lucky enough to train one day a week for 6 weeks with the Forest School Learning Initiative which was brilliant – after a day’s training I went home inspired to tackle the next essay with enthusiasm and interest. In school I practiced what I could with the children in my class and enjoyed their enthusiastic response.

Time well spent
I love the outdoors and feel well rewarded when I can share this passion with others whether through gardening, hikes, bike rides, climbing, camping or canoeing trips. I was sure that I could use the forest school sessions to inspire, interest and enthuse school children too. My only problem was that firstly we didn’t have a forest and secondly, I had spent the best part of the last eight years in a classroom constantly working towards the next SAT test! How could we integrate the principles of Forest School with the National Curriculum and make it ‘time well spent’?

Firstly, we do have quite large school grounds with some trees and a number of grassed areas. Secondly, we already had an outdoor classroom built a few years earlier. And lastly we have a local park only a short walk away. I did need to put some thought into how this land was used however.

Land sustainability was one of the most important topics in our Forest School training. In our case if all 600 pupils were able/allowed to stomp around the few wild areas that we had on the grounds daily for just six months there would be little vegetation left and nowhere to continue with the lessons.

Complementing the children’s classroom learning
I made both a short-term (1 year) and long-term (3 year) plan which included dreams for the outdoor areas with my very modest budget.
In the winter I still planned to be outside but doing activities that could take place predominately on drier ground such as the playground or paths around the school. In summer we would use the grassed areas and also take the classes to the park (to ruin their grass rather than ours). We also converted a disused area at the school to do some growing.

I researched online and signed up to all the free information and resources that are out there, I joined Twitter @wildurbans and began my own website to record the children’s work. The website also gave me a source from which to reflect and develop my ideas. It would have been all too easy to take children outside and carry out a weekly activity from the Woodland Trust website (which is wonderful) but I needed the lessons to be curriculum led rather than activity led. With all the resources that I had been collecting I now began to work through the curriculum to see where I was best placed to complement the children’s classroom learning. I was amazed to find opportunities everywhere! History, Geography, Art, DT, English, Maths, RE were all readily teachable outside.

Science however seemed to stand out as a subject which belonged outside and would need resources that perhaps were beyond the classroom. Science began with studying the natural world and still continues to solve its mysteries.

Let the science come alive
Many great scientists such as Newton, Darwin and Mary Anning worked outside collecting information and studying the world around us. Perhaps the best way for young people to learn about science is to investigate outside and let the science come alive in front of them? The education advisor Ken Robinson points to “the 8 Cs” ‘curiosity, creativity, criticism, communication, collaboration, compassion, composure and citizenship’ as being the foundations of education. Learning outside promotes all of these goals. As an alternative to doing a worksheet, looking at a flip chart or a computer simulation in the classroom you can find a beetle habitat; test the air resistance of a self-crafted arrow; trial den materials; feel the vibrations of a homemade wind chime; cook apples that you have grown; heat chocolate; water; dough; popcorn over a fire; record the wind speed; and use a compass to navigate around the grounds.

I decided to start here – using the Science curriculum to inspire lessons outside which I could make appropriate to the age of the children and resources available to us. Near the end of the first year I was extremely happy when a Year 4 child said “Oh good we have you this afternoon, your lessons are the only ones that we really learn anything in”. I tried to expand on my Forest School training to design lessons that taught the children through activities and play, e.g. creating their own fire with strikers (friction); practicing knots and whittling to make bows and arrows (air resistance); mini beast hunting (habitats); practicing Hapa Zome (flower parts); and building dens (materials).

They not only learn the core knowledge suggested in the curriculum but they gain broader experience – they communicate and collaborate in teams when carrying out the investigations. They are often spread all over the school grounds so they have to show composure and citizenship as they charge around the orienteering course out of the sight of any teacher. Working usually in teams they have to work with compassion as they accommodate each other’s idiosyncrasies. The children have become guardians of the school grounds and they have planted Woodland Trust saplings, daffodil bulbs, willow igloos and wildflower areas as well as built benches, bug hotels and sand pits.

Being the Eco-School leader I have been able to integrate the eco-work that has led to our receiving our Green Flag₅ in 2018. The children built a plastic bottle greenhouse (which cost approximately £40) in timber and bamboo canes in the first year. The next year they built a cob pizza oven for cooking their garden produce. Since then we have developed the pond/wildlife garden, introduced chickens and developed a fire pit area. There is a wealth of ideas and resources on websites such as ThePod, RHS Schools and the RSPB, you can get free seeds, potatoes, litter pickers, small grants and workshops.

The impact of Outdoor Learning
So what impact has Outdoor Learning had on the children’s lives at The Park Primary? The children’s understanding of the natural world builds year on year as terms such as habitat, friction, pollination, pitch and prey can be used fluently and encourages them to develop their own understanding. They are keen to maintain the school grounds by doing litter picking, moving worms, pruning, maintaining the pond, fetching and feeding the chickens and even building compost bins through this work they have developed a respect of nature, wildlife and animals. Luckily for me their enthusiasm never wains for their ‘Outdoor Learning Lesson’ as I enter the classroom, rain or shine the children are smiling and excited. They are learning that getting cold and wet is not the end of the world and their resilience is increasing.

The most significant thing that I find is how much more engaged they are in my outdoor lessons compared to my previous classroom lessons. Undoubtedly for the children who struggle in class bringing the learning to life helps no end but that does not diminish the effect that the lessons have on all types of children in the school – they love it and what you love you invest time and thought in. With a more global view in mind David Attenborough says “If children don’t grow up knowing about nature and appreciating it they will not understand it and if they don’t understand it they won’t protect it. And if they don’t protect it, who will?”

Over the last few wonderful years we have won over the parent’s aversion to mud, and engaged their interest in the garden and chickens. We have developed the grounds with four outdoor learning classrooms and teachers also take their classes out for lessons – fuelled by the children’s requests. We have links with the local park association and get involved with Christmas and Summer events. The grounds have hosted Sustainable Learning’s ‘Outdoor Learning’ conference and I run Twilight training sessions for local education professionals every other term. The next training will be in celebration of receiving our RHS Level 5 Award and we will be talking about how schools can get started and develop school gardening.

So if you haven’t already then get started. Apply for Potato Council potatoes find a free spot of soil or a protected spot in the playground and get growing. Print out a google maps aerial view and start orienteering – find maths questions, Christmas clues or just traditional markers. If you have a concrete landscape use the Olympics resources to test your heart and jumping skills or, better still, find your local park and see if your local police supply free hi viz jackets. Track the seasons, weather, wildlife and plants across the year and your confidence will grow term on term, good luck.

About the Author
Kirstin Whitney is a Primary School Teacher working in Kingswood, South Gloucestershire on the outskirts of Bristol.

She has taught ‘Outdoor Learning’ for the past 5 years across all ages and developed the school grounds to accommodate the outdoor lessons.

Read more from Kirstin at her website: and follow her on Twitter.

Posted in Learning Outside the Classroom, School Grounds | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment