Wayne Norrie, chief executive of Greenwood Academies Trust, explains why they’re committed to giving the children access to outdoor learning and residential visits as soon as they can.
Greenwood Academies Trust (GAT) is a family of 37 primary, secondary and special schools all located in socio-economically challenged communities in the East Midlands and East of England. Communities which are vibrant, exciting, passionate and proud; but ultimately hugely disadvantaged. The majority of the families we are proud to serve have suffered disproportionally at the hands of coronavirus and will live with the aftermath for years to come.
This is a time for stability, for children to return to the broad, balanced and exciting curriculum offer they deserve. To return to the curriculum they are familiar with, the curriculum they left behind and the outdoor learning experiences they have come to expect at a GAT academy.
It is essential for us to ensure all of our children are reintegrated into our academies in September so they feel safe, secure and happy. As a Trust we are not focusing on ‘catch up’ or ‘recovery’ curriculums. We are focusing on a re-connection curriculum. Reconnecting our children to learning, to each other, to their teachers, their communities and the wider world in which we live. There has, in my opinion, been more lost connections than lost learning during this period of lockdown.
I am acutely aware of how difficult the last three months have been for so many. However, in educational terms, we do need to apply a sense of perspective.
The majority of our children will have been away from their academy building for 68 days. It’s about 2% of a child’s school career from Reception to Year 13. This is a time for calm stability, not over dramatisation.
Of course 68 days is significant, especially when we are working with children where every lesson counts. We all know that we will have to work hard to help our children settle back in to school routine and help accelerate their learning.
However, it is not the end of the world. It is far from a ‘Lost Generation of Children’.
One of the most important cornerstones of our curriculum offer is our passion for outdoor learning in all forms. At GAT we are committed to reconnecting our children to outdoor learning, day trips and residential visits as soon as possible.
Over the last few years our pupils have spent a significant period of time engaging in outdoor learning. Many of our residentials take place at YHA hostels and GAT works closely with the team at YHA (England & Wales) to design and deliver unforgettable experiences.
Residential visits are a hugely significant part of our offer; they have become an exciting, enriching and essential part of a GAT child’s entitlement.
We are not alone. Recent research suggests 86% of primary schools and 99% of secondary schools offer their pupils at least one school residential trip during their time in school; extremely valuable before lockdown and, I would argue, essential afterwards.
An outdoor visit or residential can increase confidence, develop independence, aid social skills, provide new opportunities for learning and gives children an opportunity to experience an environment different to the one they are familiar with.
These are all vital skills as we begin the journey of reconnection across the Trust, as we begin to move to a ‘post lockdown’ life.
We are committed to offering our children their entitlement to outdoor learning and residential visits as soon as we are able to.
They have been, and remain, a crucial part of a child’s curriculum at GAT. Integral not incidental, purposeful not peripheral and advantageous not an add-on; nothing will change as we welcome all of our children back in September.