Focus on: Learning Outside the Classroom Champions

Date Posted: 13/12/2014

At the start of this week, we announced the winners of the annual LOtC awards. Now we look at the winners’ achievements in more detail.

Getting your school on board the learning outside the classroom bandwagon is sometimes easier said than done.

Some schools are still stuck in the mind-set that school trips should be one-off activities or treats that take place at the end of the school term.

There may be a growing body of research that shows that embedding away-from-desk learning into the ethos of a school can have huge effects on pupil development and even grades. But this research isn’t in every school’s eye-line yet.

And it’s for this reason that the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom holds an awards ceremony every year.

The annual awards shine the spotlight on the champions who are trying to achieve a sea-change in the nation’s approach to out-of-classroom teaching.

The 2014 event took place in Derby’s Masa restaurant last week, when three main awards were handed out in recognition of the pioneering work of individuals.

School Travel Organiser reported on the winners earlier in the week, now we give their achievements a close-up.

Best LOtC Educator

Emma Schofield, outdoor learning co-ordinator at Boston West Academy, was awarded this prize in recognition of her work ensuring that more young people experience the world beyond the classroom walls.
When Emma joined Boston West Academy the school was in special measures. Pupils’ attainment, attitudes and behaviours were in need of significant improvement.

Emma was at the heart of a team that re-shaped the school’s philosophy and practice so that it both engaged and inspired pupils.

Getting students away from their desks was part of this philosophy and today, pupils at the school have some form of out-of-classroom learning experience every day.

Today, high levels of academic performance have been achieved, whilst pupils’ social interaction and behaviour is classed outstanding.

Talking about her belief in the value of learning outside the classroom, Emma said: “I see learning outside the classroom as an exciting and essential part of school life - too many children are spending an increasing amount of time engaging with technology, without direct human contact and a disconnection with the natural environment.

I believe in giving children practical outdoor experiences and real-life learning opportunities, which leads to engaged, motivated and enthusiastic children who love learning, whilst understanding and caring for their world.”

Best LOtC Innovator

Sue Verdeyen, education officer at the Three Counties Agricultural Society was given this accolade.

She won the award in recognition of the work she has done to develop the educational programme offered by the Three Counties Agricultural Society.

As well as planning and delivering workshops on site at the Three Counties Showground and in school grounds across Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, she also acts as a local champion for learning outside the classroom.

She organises the Society’s educational activity in and around its main shows throughout the year, and is responsible for field studies, educational workshops and school visits run by the Three Counties Agricultural Society in its role as an educational facilitator within the local community, enabling many young people in the local community to experience the world beyond the classroom walls.

Sue said: “Gardening has been my passion from a very early age - I always loved being outside and enjoying natural surroundings as a child.
As I’ve become older, I have felt increasingly that today’s little ones are not getting outside, and that many of them are leading a fairly sedentary lifestyle, which is not only unhealthy, but also means that they are missing out on the fun which comes with the great outdoors and all its treasures, not to mention the fresh air! I also became concerned that children didn’t seem to know where their food came from.”

Lifetime Achievement award

This prize was presented by School Travel Organiser editor Sarah Holt.

Kate is the environmental development manager for the South Derbyshire District Council Environmental Education Project at Rosliston Forestry Centre.

Kate set up the South Derbyshire Environmental Education Project, which offers learning opportunities for all people of all ages from young children to adults, and since 1994 has been developing the Rosliston Forestry Centre, planting thousands of trees to transform the former farm into one of the first woodlands to be created in the National Forest.

The forestry centre is now highly respected and provides exemplary outdoor environmental education for thousands of children and adults each year.

Kate has played an important role in promoting citizenship, community cohesion and inclusion. The project has had a wide-reaching effect and enables many more people to enjoy learning in the outdoor environment.

Talking about here motivation for leading learning outside the classroom, Kate said: “I love learning and finding out about the world around me and I want to share that with others.

“Children and adults alike love learning in an outside environment and the enthusiasm and joy they express keeps me fresh and motivated after 20 years literally ‘in the field’."

For more information about learning outisde the classroom visit www.lotc.org.uk/

School Travel Organiser's Guide