The Education Secretary has launched a manifesto for learning outside the classroom.
“Every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development, whatever their age, ability or circumstances.”
These experiences can take place in the school grounds; local nature reserves and wild places; city farms and parks; streetscapes; field study centres; farms and the countryside; remote wild and adventurous places; heritage and cultural sites; zoos and botanic gardens; places of worship; museums, theatres, galleries and music venues; and on cultural, language and fieldwork visits abroad.
Like the successful Music Manifesto, the Education Outside the Classroom Manifesto is intended to be a ‘movement’, or joint undertaking which many stakeholders create and which anyone can sign up to. The main aim is to provide all children and young people aged 3-19 with a variety of high quality learning experiences outside a classroom environment, whether during school, after school or during holidays. Cynics might then conclude that this suggests there may be limited funding for this initiative, however the consultation document suggests that funds have been delegated to schools and they need to be encouraged to harness the full benefits of learning outside of the classroom and regain confidence in undertaking these activities.
This follows a period in which some parents, teachers and unions were resistant to engage with the risks and benefits of outdoor excursions.
The aims of this manifesto attempt to address these concerns and include:
- Support schools and the wider workforce so they have easily accessible advice, guidance and resources, as well as professional development opportunities.
- Support schools and local authorities so they are better able to manage visits safely and efficiently.
- 'Make the case' so there is widespread understanding and acceptance of the unique contribution these experiences make to young lives.
- Encourage parents and carers to back education outside the classroom so more children get out and about, and teachers have more help.
- Encourage partnerships between schools (locally, nationally and internationally), local authorities, local providers and other organisations, so in each area the range of options for visits and activities is more comprehensive and more easily understood.
- Offer a better service by working more effectively together and creating common standards.
- Provide these opportunities which are an important part of out-of-school and summer holiday activities.
Respondents to the consultation were very positive and stated they would support the manifesto. It was also suggested that a wide range of high quality experiences were required and that some form of national assessment of facilities was needed. Something similar to an Ofsted inspection was suggested. It was also stated that although respondents agreed that a residential experience should be a minimum entitlement for every child, one was not enough; respondents suggested that one should be available at every stage of a child’s education.
In a Guardian article, Phil Revell has noted that, whilst the manifesto aims to develop a national movement for outdoor education, the actual infrastructure to support it is under threat in that the Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres (AHOEC) claims, “.. 22 centres are facing cuts in provision, cuts in budgets, or proposals to close”. This would have a negative impact on a movement that would need the specialist skills of staff in these centres.
Implications for ITE
At the recent UCET conference, Mick Waters, Director of Curriculum at the QCA, endorsed learning away from the school as a key experience for all pupils that can develop social skills and responsibility.
The manifesto notes the importance of professional development in this area:
“Many of those working with young people recognise the benefits of out-of-classroom learning experiences as an essential part of teaching and learning; others feel they lack the confidence, expertise or time to prepare and deliver such activities.
… We strongly endorse its inclusion in Initial Training and Professional Development....
... We will work with training institutions and the Training and Development Agency for Schools to improve the quality and availability of training.”
Section Four page 17
Issues that ITE will need to consider will include how to:
- Work with schools and organisations that have expertise in this area to create experiences for trainees that can enable them to experience the potential of learning out of schools as well as understanding the necessary planning and responsibilities required for undertaking such activities.
- Ensure that there is an equity of access to these experiences across programmes.
- Enable trainees to harness the potential of these visits within their teaching experience.
Some examples of these forms of experience and activity involving galleries and museums are linked to below.
The TDA's latest revised standards for Qualified Teacher Status do refer to out of classroom learning and this is likely to be further highlighted in revised guidance so there is already useful work to build upon.
Q24 Plan homework or other out-of-class work to sustain learners' progress and to extend and consolidate their learning.
Q30 Establish a purposeful and safe learning environment conducive to learning and identify opportunities for learners to learn in out of
Potential contributors to the movement are encouraged to sign up to the manifesto on-line. It is still early days, but neither the TDA or any ITE institution or consortia have signed up as yet.