Kim Somerville, chief executive officer of CLOtC, on how you can embed learning outside the classroom across your whole school using an awards framework that gets your school the recognition it deserves.
The School Travel Awards, run by School Travel Organiser magazine, celebrate the champion teachers who are helping their students achieve their potential by running a varied and exciting programme of educational visits and trips. This is something that is very close to my heart.
I, along with everyone at the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, believe that every child should be given the opportunity to experience life and lessons beyond the classroom as a regular part of the school day. These experiences expand their horizons, bring learning to life and engage hard-to-reach pupils. It is these champion teachers who often encourage, motivate and drive a whole school approach to taking learning out of the classroom, but even the most champion teachers need support with this, and that’s where our national award for schools, the LOtC Mark comes in.
A national award - LOtC Mark
In 2012 we introduced LOtC Mark to recognise those schools that were using learning outside the classroom as an integral part of their teaching and learning. The award is based on a framework which is designed to support teachers and schools embed a whole-school approach to learning outside the classroom.
Our members told us that more teachers want to take learning outside the classroom more often because of the immense benefits that it offers their pupils, however knowing where to start, particularly in a school which doesn’t have a history of learning beyond the classroom can be hard. Sometimes taking lessons away from school is done sporadically or thought as being only for younger pupils.
Refreshed guidance and application process
Since 2012, hundreds of schools have achieved LOtC Mark, recognising the brilliant work they are doing to make learning relevant, to re-motivate students and to promote the benefits of outdoor learning. We have spent the last year reviewing the award and process, listening to teachers and assessors. Using this feedback, we have revised the guidance and application process to make it clearer and simpler.
Learning outside the classroom works best when…
All pupils benefit from out-of-classroom teaching, however this type of learning is most successful when it is an integral element of long-term curriculum planning and closely linked to classroom activities. This way, it can help make subjects more vivid and interesting for pupils and enhance their understanding. It can also contribute significantly to pupils’ personal, social and emotional development, whatever their age. It is this vision and thinking that LOtC Mark recognises.
Euxton Primrose Hill Primary School in Chorley is LOtC Mark (Bronze) holder and used the framework to ensure all staff understood what was involved in developing the school’s learning outside the classroom offer:
“We want everyone involved with our school to support our ambitions. To help our staff improve their knowledge and understanding, we’ve held several outdoor-learning focused inset days. And we have invited parents into school to help develop the outdoor environment - creating a learning area in the school woodland, bug hotels, weeding and tidying the eco-garden.”
Developed to help teachers
We have found that using the framework can help teachers to review and develop their school’s approach to learning outside the classroom, and ensure all students have access to frequent, progressive and meaningful experiences.
There are three awards available depending on what stage a school is at:
• Bronze – for schools that are beginning the journey to embed learning outside the classroom.
• Silver – for schools with a strong commitment to and evidence of learning outside the classroom.
• Gold – recognises schools that are have embedded a culture of learning outside the classroom across the whole curriculum and for all ages and abilities.
An award for all educational settings
The award is suitable for any educational setting and the structure criteria was carefully developed to ensure the award is both useful and meaningful. Schools can apply for whichever level they think is suitable for them and their school, it isn’t necessary to start a Bronze. If teachers feel their setting is already operating above Bronze level, they can apply for Silver or Gold.
LOtC Mark (Silver) holder Lyng Primary School in West Bromwich, used learning outside the classroom as a ‘golden thread’ to connect all areas of the curriculum. Along with activities on the school-site, pupils use an adjacent woodland and undertake visits to war memorials, adventure playgrounds, the local library and church.
“We believe children learn everywhere and anywhere, and we are delighted to have achieved LOtC Mark (Silver) in recognition of the hard work that everyone in the school has put in to creating ‘classrooms without walls’.”
Recognising the ‘everyday’
Educational visits and school trips are important features that assessors look for when reviewing an award application, however they also want to see how a school is using learning outside the classroom to deliver the ‘everyday’ curriculum. Day-to-day activities within or around school are just as important as off-site visits.
Wood Street Primary School in Surrey has recently achieved LOtC Mark (Gold). Charlotte Willoughby, assistant head teacher said: “The LOtC Mark provided the incentive and structure to look at how we can teach the whole curriculum outside. We have reviewed the school’s grounds to improve what we can do on-site. We now have a vegetable patch where the children plant, grow and harvest vegetables. They then use their crops to cook meals. LOtC is built into all school policies - curriculum, teaching and learning as well as subject specific policies.”
To find out more about LOtC Mark and how it can help your school visit www.lotc.org.uk