What the resource is:
The booklet exemplifies opportunities presented by a consortium of organisations to support young people's experience of out-of-classroom Learning. It is the basis for developing an understanding of Real World Learning where Every Child Matters (ECM) is at the heart of learning, which is fun, motivational, inclusive and achievable. There is also invaluable guidance to support teachers and organisers of these learning and teaching experiences.
The aims of the resource:
The aim of the resource is to explore the benefits that out-of-classroom Learning can provide to young people giving examples and advice to teachers considering participation in this invaluable learning experience. The organisation of out-of-classroom Learning can be quite daunting, but this document provides examples of best practice, useful suggestions and contact information to support the organisation of activities with the young people's education and safety being of central importance.
Key findings or focus:
The focus of the resource is the interest in Real World Learning and the vast range of potential opportunities afforded to young people. Initiated by the producers of the booklet, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and their interest in Living Classrooms, the consortium of providers have focussed upon how these experiences can be made more widely available to young people. Within the context of the booklet there are claims for improved achievement and the ability to include everyone socially. The Ofsted report into outdoor education in 2004 noted: "Outdoor education continues to thrive in those schools where headteachers or individual enthusiasts provide leadership and a vision that promotes a well-balanced PE curriculum and outdoors off-site, day or residential experience as part of curriculum extension and enrichment. They recognise the importance of outdoor education experiences in giving depth to the curriculum and to the development of students' personal and social development" (p. 9). The document by Ofsted also claims that field trips can improve long term memory, enabling higher order thinking and greater awareness of young people's social skills with a direct link back to learning in the classroom. Whilst many teachers are very likely to agree with the latter claims, the document does not cite its evidence for the former claimed benefits for higher order thinking skills and long term memory. These actually arise from a review undertaken (in 2004) by the NFER and Kings College, which is referenced at the end of this review along with a critique published by the Geographical Association.
The interest in obesity, reported widely, is also a focus of out-of-classroom learning and the way in which young people can learn how to be fit, naturally. The emphasis on wildlife and rich natural landscapes is the basis for developing healthy active lifestyles, demonstrating that it is not only sports which can be healthy: it is the realisation of more than just playing sports, but something as simple as a walk in a natural environment. It is the notion of 'thinking outside the box' and enabling young people and teachers to recognise what Real World Learning can realistically offer, particularly when considering the Every Child Matters agenda. Whilst there is a national focus on healthy lifestyles and obesity, it is also demonstrated that schools and teachers play an integral role in providing out-of-classroom opportunities for all: "Education shouldn't be in a box. Together, we need to let the real world in and encourage children to explore it" (p. 5).
The contributors to the booklet are all concerned with Real World Learning, hence out-of-classroom learning, and provide examples of how they have supported young people in the realisation of themselves; the Real World Learning Partners comprise subject associations (the Association for Science Education (ASE), the Historical Association (HA), the Geographical Association (GA), the Royal Geographical Society with IBG), the RSPB, PGL Travel Ltd, the National Trust, the Outdoor Education Advisers' Panel, the Field Studies Council (FSC), the Wildlife Trusts, and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) (including the Great Pond Safari, which is aimed at Key Stage 2).
The quality, authority and credibility of the resource in relation to ITE:
The claims made for the advantages of learning beyond the classroom tend to be unquestioned, so it may not be surprising that those made in this document do not make reference to any available evidence that specifically supports the claims.
Generally, the resource is informative, with specific suggestions for ensuring good and safe practice for teachers organising out-of-classroom learning. The resource includes helpful hints which are extremely useful. There are suggested criteria for the identification of providers to support the learning of children and young people. With respect to ITE, from the outset, the benefits of out-of-classroom learning are highlighted, as is the financial input from the Government to support these practices. Personal experience of organising out-of-school learning recognises there are many more providers to support learning and teaching. The appropriate recruitment and selection of these providers does need to be carefully monitored, a process of thorough investigation to ascertain that the school and teachers' aims and objectives are realised fully by the providers. From a personal perspective, there are many aspects in this resource which are important , predominantly, the inclusion of all young people and the information provided for trainee teachers wishing to be involved in out-of-classroom learning. There are numerous networks which are already in place, as listed in the resource, to support teachers, as well as information appertaining to the Educational Visits Coordinator (EVC) and Outdoor Education Advisers Panel.
The implications for ITE tutors/mentors - when and how it could have best impact:
The resource is very useful and would support tutors and mentors in the careful underpinning of their preparation of trainee teachers who plan to organise out-of-classroom learning. The information provided is exceptionally useful to tutors and mentors of any subject area as an additional support for the practice in schools, and, as outlined in the resource, there can be a tremendous impact on inclusive learning and teaching. The necessity to be aware of the Health and Safety of Pupils on School Visits (HASPSV) is particularly important and essential reading. The information identifying quality providers would be useful as a discussion point and open opportunities to engage in the identification of these providers.
The relevance to ITE students - how and why it has importance:
The resource is important and provides valuable advice with examples of practice for all working within the education sector. All the information required to support the trainee teacher wishing to organise out-of-classroom learning is easily accessible and in one place; this document provides examples of best practice, useful suggestions and contact information to support the organisation of activities, with the young people's education and safety being centrally important. The identification of quality provision would help the trainee teacher in deciding the nature and type of out-of-classroom learning they wish to involve young people in. The information concerning networks in place to support out-of-classroom learning is of particular value.
Dr John Connell
NfER and King's College London (2004) A Review of Research on Outdoor Learning
Marker, M. and Cooper, D. (2005) Comments On: A Review of Research On Outdoor Learning
Ofsted (2004) Outdoor education: Aspects of good practice