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Why is outdoor learning in Primary Schools so important?

Why is outdoor learning in Primary Schools so important?

It could be argued that you’d have to have been living in a cave or a cardboard box to have missed the vast cultural shift and the move towards outdoor learning in our primary schools. Undoubtedly compounded by recent events, and perhaps in part as a reaction to the restrictive lockdowns, never has there been so strong a call to the great outdoors.

But whilst its cause may have been helped by the recognition that we are ‘safer’ outside in the fresh air, the benefits of outdoor learning are far greater than aiding infection control, so why is it so important?

Outdoor learning practitioners frequently report that children’s wellbeing is vastly improved when they spend time outside, that confidence and concentration are increased and that children have more opportunities to engage in collaborative learning and practical problem solving when they take their learning outdoors.

As Jay Helbert, headteacher at Inveraray Primary School and lead for active pedagogies and outdoor learning at Argyll and Bute Council comments, “Learning outside have a range of benefits for learning. Psychoevolutionary theory tells us that merely being outside in natural environments changes how we feel. Children feel calmer, more optimistic and inspired. This, in turn, means they are more successful at emotional regulation and social interaction. Relationships change, children are more ready to learn and they have a better-developed sense of self-worth.” (TES, 2021)

As all good teachers know, you can tell when something is working well and contributing to good learning and teaching practices but it helps to have our instincts backed up with some evidence too. Inveraray Primary School have reported that positive outcomes have already been observed and measured, with children at the school achieving attainment levels that are higher than both the national average and their own pre-covid results.

OFSTED findings back this up with the 2008 report, ‘Learning outside the classroom,’ reporting; When planned and implemented well, learning outside the classroom contributed significantly to raising standards and improving pupils’ personal, social and emotional development.

It’s good to hear that our instincts are correct; Taking learning outdoors in Primary School is not only enjoyable, its both valuable and important too. How about you? What benefits have you experienced in your outdoor classroom? Thinking about giving it a go? It may just change your class’s life!


Jay Helbert (25/6/2021) Outdoor learning has improved our children’s attainment, TES

OFSTED (2008) Learning outside the classroom: How far should you go.

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