Louise Edwards, manager at Surrey Outdoor Learning & Development (SOLD), on converting residentials and a refocus on outdoor learning.
There has been an appetite from schools to still come for outdoor learning experiences at our centres which has been very reassuring. We offered all of our residential bookings the chance to convert to day visits or to an outreach programme – many converted to day visits which has been great.
Where we might have had a primary school booked in for a two/three night residential for a particular class or year group – they’ve converted it into a day visit but they’ve offered it out to other year groups which has been quite nice. Our rate of conversion from residential to some other form of outdoor learning has been good. We really wanted to try and keep outdoor learning alive in some shape or form this term and that has gone well.
We had one school which had a residential originally booked for two nights. We had to convert them, and we delivered everything except the overnight stay; they had lunch and dinner with us in the evening and on one of the evenings they stayed late and had a campfire activity.
We made the most of the opportunity and they absolutely loved it. We’ve had a couple of schools who were booked in for a residential who would have come if we’d have said yes. There’s definitely a massive range of attitude from schools.
We have also had new bookings for day visits and outreach sessions from schools who have recognised that it’s a really good thing to do with their children this term, especially after a difficult period.
Normally, we run an annual conference in April for our primary school teachers about taking learning outdoors. As that had to be cancelled, we decided instead to host some CPD days this autumn to keep that engagement. They are based on the new set of books recently published, National Curriculum Outdoors, which are about taking every subject area at KS1 and KS2 outside. We’ve put two days on for 40 teachers and they’ve sold out. The message from that is that primary schools are really seeing, more than ever, the benefit of taking their learning outside because it ticks a lot of boxes. We’re hearing that it’s an opportunity for outdoor learning to thrive, particularly in school grounds.
Surrey Outdoor Learning & Development (SOLD) has three outdoor education centres around Surrey – High Ashurst near Dorking, Henley Fort in Guildford and Thames Young Mariners near Richmond. You can find more information at www.surreyoutdoorlearning.uk