Bringing learning to life

Learning outside the classroom has the most impact when it is delivered regularly and embedded within the curriculum. But it doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive to have an impact. Matilda Miles from the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, examines how this can be achieved and what support is available

September heralds the start of a new season and brings with it the promise of a fresh start. For staff and students beginning a new school year, it can be a time of hope and excitement and maybe also apprehension. Here at the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (CLOtC) we have been working on improving our package of support for schools to help you develop your learning beyond the classroom (LOtC) practice, enriching the lives of students and staff alike.
    
LOtC is now a well-evidenced practice that can deliver a wide range of positive health and learning outcomes. In 2022, two reports published by Natural England confirmed the benefits of LOtC in natural environments, which included increased motivation and engagement with learning, higher attainment, positive social and behavioural outcomes such as self-esteem and resilience, increase in physical activity benefitting cardiovascular health, and nature-connectedness encouraging the development of pro-environmental behaviours.
    
The reports also highlighted that LOtC can be of particular benefit to those with lower predicted achievement (who then tend to make the greatest progress), those suffering mental distress, those with low self-perceived social and personal skills, those with a diagnosis of autism, and those with other special needs. E
F Supporting learning objectives
High quality LOtC experiences can support learning objectives by enabling students to become actively engaged in their learning and connect with the world around them. These experiences can have a lasting impact that ultimately help children and young people to become more well-rounded citizens.
    
It is important to remember that LOtC has the most impact when it is delivered regularly and embedded within the curriculum. It shouldn’t be an add-on to lessons that happens once a term at an off-site visit. Rather, it should be woven into everyday teaching and play a part in school culture. This may seem like too much of a commitment at a time when schools are already under strain, but LOtC doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive to have impact. It can happen almost anywhere – on school grounds, at the local park or high street, it could even include someone coming into school to talk to students about a particular topic. Put simply, LOtC at its core is about bringing learning to life.

Getting the most out of LOtC

No matter whether you’ve just started your LOtC journey, or you are already embedding it within your curriculum, our Learning Beyond package of support is tailored to meet schools needs. Membership offers free resources, discounts and online CPD. LOtC Mark Direct offers guidance to those who want to assess and develop their current LOtC provision independently. Mentoring offers more in-depth one-to-one support for those new to LOtC or for those who want to enhance and embed their provision further.
   
Sue Dutton from Sherbrook Primary School, commented: “The new progress trackers that have been designed by the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom are really helpful to teachers because it gives them a focus: they can see where they are going, what they’ve got to improve on, and where to go next. And the new mentoring scheme also helps other schools to have someone who has been through that journey and help them along the way.”

CPD training

Our programme of CPD training for schools gives teachers the tools to succeed and make a real difference in the lives of their students.
    
We focus on building both staff confidence and the necessary knowledge and understanding of how to create opportunities for children to learn beyond the classroom. The programme covers a range of topics, from looking at how to improve your school grounds for learning, to embedding LOtC within a SEND educational setting.
   
Most sessions are facilitated by one of our inspirational guest speakers who provides advice and support and shares challenges and successes from their own experience.
    
By signing up to our school membership, your whole staff team can access these sessions for free. Primary schools in England can use their PE and Sports Premium to pay for CLOtC membership, Mark and mentoring as the funding is valid for CPD related to Outdoor Learning.
    
Last year a selection of schools from across the country took part in the mentoring programme as part of our Waterways, Wildlife and Wellbeing project in partnership with Canal & River Trust. We worked closely with these schools to support them in developing their LOtC through a structured development framework. After completing the mentoring programme, all the schools involved reported a positive impact on students and staff. Penn Fields School said the programme gave them the “ability to explore new activities and improved relationships with students”. Longford Park Primary said it gave them “flexibility to develop creativity in curriculum planning”.  
    
St Patrick’s Catholic Primary commented that the programme allowed “children to enjoy school more and see the ‘fun’ in every lesson”.  
    
For our latest project with Canal & River Trust, launching this September, we will be giving 100 schools free CLOtC membership. If your school is based within one kilometre of a canal, all you need to do is submit your details and complete a short survey to gain free CLOtC membership. Please email marketing@lotc.org.uk for more details.

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