More exams? More tests? Really? As an ex-teacher I am deeply saddened by this news and it would appear that its not just me. Ben Fogle has just written a superb article for The Guardian about there being more wilderness in education and I have to agree. Teaching our children to pass exams does not give them the skills they need to succeed in their chosen pathway, all it does is teach them how to pass an exam on a set day. So what would give them these skills? Well the Outdoors of course!
Outdoor Education or Outdoor Learning is fast becoming the new buzz word in education and it makes my heart sing. I have long believed that learning in the outdoors far outweighs many of the learning that occurs in classrooms across the UK. My passion for the outdoors began as a child, we had a boat and canoes as children and we spent hours upon hours outside despite being brought up in the centre of Bristol.
At 13 I went on my first Outdoor Adventure holiday and I was hooked, it gave me so much confidence, confidence that dissipated as soon as I returned to school. I was a different person when I was up a mountain or paddling about in Kermit my canoe. I am certain that I would not be the person I am today were it not for my time in the outdoors as a child, and more importantly as a teenager. So much so that after years of being the person I thought I wanted to be I am now at the age of 42 finally pursuing my dream to work in the Outdoors.
So why is Outdoor Learning so good? The Institute for Outdoor Learning has answered that very question:-
The potential benefits of outdoor learning are so many that they are grouped below in four broad categories: background, planned, bonus and wider benefits.
Background benefits of Outdoor Learning
are benefits that arise from spending time in the natural environment.
5 key ways in which exposure to the natural environment is beneficial to human health:
Planned benefits of Outdoor Learning
are benefits that are determined by, or negotiated with, the provider of Outdoor Learning. For example, the City of Salford expects Educational Trips and Visits to help young people to:
Bonus benefits of Outdoor Learning
arise where participants gain more value than was expected. Such benefits happen more by chance than by design, but they are more likely to happen when there is a highly supportive climate for learning.
Wider benefits of Outdoor Learning
are benefits to stakeholders such as families, schools, sponsors, society and future generations (especially in relation to sustainability). Ultimately we are all stakeholders in the success of Outdoor Learning. The more that wider stakeholders are involved, the greater the opportunities for achieving these wider benefits.
So where is the evidence?? Well....
Flixton Girls School in Manchester have managed to turn around their exam results after they decided to 'utilise the challenges and adventures of outdoor learning to widen students' horizons'.
Headteacher Julie Hazeldene decided to engage with the Outward Bound Trust and teachers are now encouraged to take part in all the activities from overnight camping, fell walking, climbing and canoeing to a wide range of teamwork challenges and this certainly contributes to the programme’s success. The staff and the instructors use every opportunity to teach the girls new facts and give them new experiences from blackberry picking to learning about glaciation and U-shaped valleys.
And the results? Well they have gone from 39% of the school’s students achieving five or more GCSEs in 2007 to 74% of students getting five or more A* to C grades in 2015. I think it speaks for itself.
And Ben Fogle (sorry I had to get a photo in here.....ummmm). His article in The Guardian spoke about wanting 'an education system that works inside out. The outdoors becomes a weekly topic – encompassing geography, environment, resourcefulness, home economics, science, and maths – undertaken outside. Classes could be in an inner-city park, scrubland or garden.'
Read his article here: Ben Fogle 'We need fewer exams and more wilderness in education' The Guardian.
So, start questioning your child's school, demand they consider Outdoor Learning, Forest School's, Trips and Days out. Education is about developing people who can stand on their own two feet, be confident, happy and healthy. It is not about ticking boxes and league tables.
To Outdoors and Beyond.