May 3, 2023
Primary Schools have just received another payment of their sports premium funding and after almost 10 years of receiving this funding some senior leaders are starting to wonder how else they can use the funding to benefit their school. If you are struggling with low pupil engagement, meeting the fall out of holistic needs after lockdowns and slow academic progress, but the gymnastic mats you bought with sports premium funding last year are still wrapped in plastic in the PE cupboard, outdoor learning might be the investment your school needs.
Why outdoor learning?
There are many benefits of outdoor learning which you can research throughout our various other blog posts but to summarise, outdoor learning:
- Improves children’s engagement in learning and offers a hands-on learning style which is more accessible to learners whilst still providing opportunities for challenge. (Increased engagement is also proven to continue upon return back to the classroom too).
- Cognitive skills such as working memory are proven to be supported by both movement and the outdoor environment.
- Spending time in a more natural environment is proven to have many benefits for mental and emotional wellbeing.
- Daylight plays a vital role in children’s physical health and development.
- Research shows children’s communication increases outdoors - with it the potential for new vocabulary and improved communication skills.
Taking your everyday lessons outdoors enables teachers to still teach the same curriculum objectives whilst supporting a range of needs more effectively for their children. Many teachers report that their children are calmer outdoors, more responsive to questioning and more deeply absorbed in their work.
Children report that they enjoy outdoor learning because they can move more freely, get more chances to discuss their ideas with their friends and generally enjoy being outside of the classroom.
How can I use sports premium funding for outdoor learning?
The second key indicator provided by Government guidance for spending sports premium effectively is ‘engagement of all pupils in regular physical activity’. If you are familiar with curriculum outdoor learning, you’ll know the outdoor environment demands the children move throughout their lessons as sitting down still will only be effective for a couple of warm, spring days within the year. Taking everyday lessons outdoors regularly throughout the week is a way to secure more physical activity into the children’s school hours without squeezing timetables any further.
For example, let’s say in class the children have had a new mathematical concept taught to them and now they’re practising this concept to develop fluency. Usually teachers will present the questions to the children in some form for them to work on either individually or as a group at their tables.
If we were to take this exact same lesson outdoors the fluency questions would likely be displayed around your outdoor space and the teacher would establish a central working space for the class. The children would run to record a question, come back to the working space, work either individually or as a group and use equipment such as natural loose parts to support their thinking if needed. Then when they have completed the question they would check their working with a partner before running to collect the next question.
This example shows how a very stationary activity becomes much more physically active for the children. It also demonstrates how the learning content remains the same; it is just the style of the teaching and learning activities that changes. This is just one example of how to take a typical maths lesson outdoors for KS1 & KS2. Outdoor learning provides lots of different opportunities for movement within learning.
To further this, one of the examples the Government web page suggests for achieving the key indicators is ‘embedding physical activity into the school day through (...) holding active lessons and teaching’. Taking your everyday lessons outdoors is the best way to achieve this as the increased space opens up the opportunity for freedom of movement within the lesson and can contribute to the children’s 30 minutes of physical activity in a school day.
What is the best way to implement outdoor learning?
This will be dependent on the existing skills of your staff team and how much experience they have of taking learning outdoors. Some may have completed Forest School training and be comfortable with the outdoors but lack the understanding of how to apply the curriculum outside. Others may not have any confidence in taking lessons outdoors at all and will require an understanding of the benefits of outdoor learning in order to be motivated to embrace the approach.
For a sustainable practice, investing in staff training for curriculum outdoor learning will provide the whole staff team with a united approach and empower them to take their everyday lessons outdoors. We offer a range of training options with inset days, twilight sessions and training courses available. During these training sessions we share the formula for planning different curriculum areas outdoors as well as addressing the practicalities of taking a class of children outdoors with limited staff.
Another option to implement outdoor learning would be to provide staff with the resources and planning for curriculum outdoor learning. This will allow your staff to see how effective outdoor lessons are planned and give them support whilst developing their outdoor teaching practice. This would be suitable for staff who have already received training or are already taking learning outdoors regularly. We provide an affordable outdoor planning hub with lesson plans for KS1 - KS2 covering a range of curriculum areas which is ever growing in content, with Early Years to be added in June 2023.
Our final word of advice if you are looking to implement outdoor learning in your school using sports premium funding . . . don’t get sucked into spending on expensive resources for outdoor learning.
We visit schools up and down the country to deliver our training and this is something we see regularly! You do not need an outdoor classroom or any other expensive equipment to implement this approach in your school. Many schools invest in these expensive pieces of equipment but don’t invest in staff knowledge and so they go unused. Your existing classrooms are already the perfect base. What your staff require is the knowledge around how to adapt their lessons to the weather, seasons, curriculum areas and needs of your children. Your staff will need some resources to support outdoor lessons but large structures aren’t one of them!
If you have any other questions about implementing outdoor learning there are lots of resources available on our website, please take a look around. If you have a specific question about your school needs you can drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org