As the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2019, the charity’s Chief Executive Officer, Kim Somerville considers the past, present and future priorities for everyone involved in learning outside the classroom.
Back in 2009 teachers were frustrated by excessive red tape preventing them leaving the classroom and children were missing out. The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (CLOtC) was established as a charity taking over responsibility the aims within the Manifesto for Learning Outside the Classroom. Its mission:
To ensure that every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development, whatever their age, ability and circumstances.
This mission is as relevant today as it was then, and it is heartening to see that significant steps forward have been taken, but there is still much to do.
Over the last decade we’ve seen government support come and go. In 2008, Ed Balls, then Education Secretary was the driving force behind the LOtC Quality Badge, which saved schools endless hours of time chasing paperwork before going on a school trips. Over the last ten years there have been over 1000 of these national awards granted by CLOtC which gives assurance about the quality of both learning and safety to a range of brilliant and exciting providers – from museums to galleries, farms to nature reserves, adventure centres to overseas expeditions.
Many of the myths and fears around health and safety on school trips have been tackled over the last ten years showing that children won’t learn about risk when they are wrapped in cotton wool. Schools no longer need to maintain their own guidance for educational visits, thanks to the highly influential Outdoor Education Advisers Panel (OEAP) National Guidance for educational visits. And today, teachers rarely cite health and safety as the reason for not learning in a range of spaces and places.
A positive shift
There are still many challenges of course (confidence, funding and inclusivity for starters) but there is another positive shift in the landscape with greater value being placed on learning outside the classroom by the Government. £10 million is to be invested to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds have better access to the natural environment (with grants awarded to projects that will create greener school grounds and increase the number of school visits to local parks, wildlife sites, care farms and National Parks over the next five years); £2.5 million to boost international school exchanges; and another £1m to continue the Schools Heritage Programme (now in its eighth year). This funding is a far cry from reaching every child, but we should take this as a step in the right direction, especially when you couple it with the new Ofsted education inspection framework (now open for consultation) which has a focus on what children learn through the curriculum, rather than over-reliance on performance data.
What has inspired me most when I look back at CLOtC’s history is the innovative ways that schools have developed teaching across the whole curriculum in a range of spaces and places, especially the 200 Primary, Secondary and special schools who have achieved the LOtC Mark since its launch in 2012. The knowledge, enthusiasm and expertise that the staff in these outstanding LOtC Mark schools holds is what we need to bottle up and prescribe to all other schools across the country.
But, as figures show that 1 in 10 school pupils (5-16 years) suﬀer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – only 1 in 5 school pupils get to go on a residential every year, and last year only 57% of children aged 11 to 15 visited a museum (a drop of 6% on previous year) – there is still much to do to, and together we are stronger.
Our members are seeing a groundswell of demand for more learning outside the classroom, particularly more support and help with embedding this across the curriculum, which makes the future extremely positive and exciting.
An invitation to add your voice
To lead us into our next ten years I invite you to add your voice to our mission to ensure that every child has the chance to experience the benefits of learning beyond classroom walls. You can do this by:
Gifting - by supporting us with just £10, we can reach 10 more schools with free resources and information about high quality learning outside the classroom, helping up-to 1000 more children and young people flourish. www.lotc.org.uk/support
Joining – become a member of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom from as little as £60 and receive access to high-quality resource packs and CPD material; fortnightly e-updates with the latest relevant news; discounts on training; and exclusive offers from providers and attractions. www.lotc.org.uk/membership
Entering - In partnership with School Travel Organiser - we are launching an exciting schools competition to give schools the chance to win one of ten ‘learning outside the classroom experiences’ for a class of 30 with accompanying adults. Prizes will be released throughout the year and include trips to LOtC Quality Badge holders Thorpe Park, Warwick Castle, SEA LIFE aquariums or engaging outreach visit from RSPB to your school grounds. To take part in the competition visit www.lotc.org.uk/competition