Whilst I'm in danger of being a little too England-centric, I think the current consultation by OFSTED is reflective of the developing opportunities for outdoor learning in education through schools. It is encouraging to see that OFSTED is proposing under its new inspection framework that its inspectors will make a judgement on the personal development of learners. The importance of developing young people's life skills in preparation for life beyond the school is recognised by The Social Mobility Commission, Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation. All have recognised how good personal development can narrow the gap between pupils from more disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers.
Personal Development will be one of four areas inspectors will focus on, the others being: Quality of Learning; Behaviours & Attitudes and Leadership & Management.
Inspectors will make a judgement on the personal development of learners by evaluating the extent to which:
- The curriculum extends beyond the academic, technical or vocational and provides for learners'; broader development, enabling them to develop and discover their interests and talents.
- The curriculum and the provider's wider work support learners to develop their character - including their resilience, confidence and independence - and help them know how to keep physically and mentally healthy.
- At each stage of education, the provider prepares learners for future success in their next steps.
- The provider prepares learners for life in modern Britain by: equipping them to be responsible, respectful, active citizens who contribute positively to society; developing their understanding of fundamental British values; developing their understanding and appreciation of diversity; celebrating what we have in common and promoting respect for the different protected characteristics as defined in law.
There are a number of clear messages here for the outdoor learning field to take note of and which I believe apply even if you are working to a different government's education agenda and philosophy.
- Outdoor Learning providers can play an important role enabling schools to deliver on what OFSTED is looking for. Try applying the inspectors’ focus to your work with schools or children and young people. How does your work integrate into their broader development?
- Personal development is an ongoing journey that prepares learners for their next steps. How do you go about doing that in your practice?
- Understanding how resilience, confidence and independence are developed is key to character development. How do you go about moving beyond physically healthy and engaging activity and into development of character?
- There may be a different three R’s here that outdoor learning can champion! Responsible, Respectful and Resilient. I look forward to the continued development of the role outdoor learning plays in and through schools.
Equality of access, of course remains an issue and one that is reflected in the recent Department for Education’s funding of Nature Friendly Schools. At the time of writing it is now clear how these funds will reach disadvantaged schools, though the work is probably going to be led by The Wildlife Trusts and involve over 300 schools from disadvantaged areas in England.
My final observation relates to the ongoing development of the Outdoor Learning sector. The progress made in achieving a more focused and co-ordinated voice in responding to this latest OFSTED consultation has been notable. Working through the Outdoor Council and its members, IOL continues to support and enable more impactful influencing of governments, policy makers, funders and other key stakeholders in the Outdoor Learning community.
If you’re interested in this work please contact the IOL office or join in with your regional executive committee’s activities.