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Outdoor Education

Why we are pushing the outdoor education agenda at Willington

As a school we are always looking at what our purpose is. Big picture, what are we here for, what is it about us that makes us who we are? There is a very simple answer. We are here to give our children the best possible childhood experience. Of course, we do not do this alone, it takes a whole village to raise a child. My childhood was so much more than just school. What was your childhood like?

I was lucky enough to have grown up in the Scottish countryside and spent the entirety of my ‘playtime’ outdoors during the holidays. That in itself was an education that taught us so much, without a teacher anywhere to be seen. We learnt all you need to know whilst building dens, climbing ridiculously high trees, swimming in rivers, camping out (without parents), hiking up hill and glen. Teamwork, collaboration, problem solving, empathy, not to mention the innumerable links to the school curriculum including science, geography and maths which we didn’t even realise. Ok, granted, it was the 80s and the risks associated with some of these activities probably hadn’t been assessed fully, but we did our own, on the hoof. Dangerous play - there is a place for it. As a childhood, it was brilliant. 

In Zofia Niemtus’s article (click here) in the TES, she pointed to a nationwide study which found that “almost all outdoor learning interventions had a positive effect”.

This is one of the reasons we launched a weekly outdoor education afternoon for our Year 6 pupils this year. This complements our Nursery and Reception children who already enjoy sessions of forest school, Year 2 take their first one-night residential trip at the tender age of 6 and 7, and this year we’ll be rolling out more outdoor education activities for children in the pre-prep. For us it goes beyond just Forest School.

We want our pupils to experience the outdoors and show them how much you can learn without the need for technology and all the mod cons of school. I know they will love it, all children love being outdoors. I know this will help them when they finally sit the 11+. Mentally they will be at ease. And to cap it all we are off to Ullswater to the The Outward Bound Trust for an end of year residential.

Keith Brown

This article was first published on LinkedIn on 21st September. Follow us @WillingtonPrep