After the winter hibernation, spring delivers the promise of bright new beginnings and an opportunity to embrace the outdoors, says CLOtC’s Emily Carlill.

Children in meadow

Children can use the warmer weather to get back outdoors, according to the CLOtC.

The sightings of small bursts of colour as crocuses appear through the leafy humus, the stretching of daylight at either end of the day and a noticeable increase in birdsong from the hedgerows feel like the promise of exciting things ahead. Having been confined indoors during the colder months, it’s time for children to unfurl their wings and head out of that classroom and back into the world to learn, experience and grow.

Emily Carlill, CLOtC

Emily Carlill.

Spring is a time of renewal

Through our contact with schools and educational providers, we have sensed a feeling of renewed energy and enthusiasm about taking children beyond the classroom. Despite ongoing disruptions, we are seeing teachers embrace learning opportunities available to them on their doorstep, be that in their school grounds or local area: a train ride to the local museum; a visit to the theatre to watch a show; or lighting fires in the school grounds during ‘Stone Age Day’.

For schools that have been planning trips further afield, we are hearing of more and more Learning Outside the Classroom providers opening up their doors, and we are supporting them to renew their LOtC Quality Badge and welcome schools back. The Quality Badge is more important than ever to ensure schools feel confident that they are using a provider who has been assessed for safety as well as quality.

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow

As well as the launch of our Learning Beyond programme, this year also looks set to see new things emerging from the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom: supporting students in schools in the West Midlands to connect with nature through our Waterways, Wildlife and Wellbeing project; the launch of our new website; a new programme of online CPD for schools; and developing our membership offer and LOtC Quality Badge. We feel hopeful that we can continue to shine a light on learning beyond the classroom and grow its importance with decision-makers and help support its delivery at all levels.

“Whilst we’ve been able to offer schools alternative learning experience through virtual sessions and online resources, it cannot compare with the real thing. We have recently reopened our doors to welcoming schools back on-site to get a full immersive educational experience – from travelling with teachers and peers to and from our site, interacting with our building and staff, seeing the places where things happen, experiencing and absorbing the reality of what goes on here – exciting and engaging young minds for when they return to the classroom, and opening to possibilities available to them in the future.”

Yvonne Dennison, education centre operations manager, UK Parliament.

Catherine Floyd of Potters Gate C. of E. Primary School in Surrey told us: “We are really excited to be able to push the classroom walls back and invite the outside in again. So far this term we have visited many places including museums, castles, churches, ponds and meadows. Our residentials and day trips are booked, plus the staff and children are ready to be inspired by the wealth of exciting experiences we can offer them beyond the classroom walls.”

Children exploring nature

Emily says the LOtC Quality Badge is more than important than ever, showing teachers where pupils can gain top experiences.

We have been heartened to see so many schools embrace this pedagogy, understanding that it’s vital to restore children’s love of learning and start to repair the negative impacts the pandemic has had both academically and on student and staff wellbeing. This has been evident in the number of schools signing up to our new Learning Beyond support.

Before Learning Beyond, we offered schools the LOtC Mark accreditation – a way of recognising and awarding schools for the quality of the LOtC that they were delivering. However, Learning Beyond is now a much more developmental process to support individual schools with the tools and mentoring they might need to get started or to develop their LOtC, to adopt an approach that helps them embed it in their planning, policy and practice, and to deliver and report a measurable impact.

Emily Carlill is project and event coordinator at The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, the national charity that supports schools to embed learning beyond the classroom within a school.