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Outdoor learning


run about in the rain, but his language had changed – ‘playing’ rather than ‘hanging out’, was something he had never really done before.


Overall, the results have been astonishing: children taking part have increased their self- confidence, self-esteem and team working skills. Those less confident and the least resilient are now ready to undertake challenges they previously found too daunting. Numerous aspects of the National Curriculum, from academic subjects to personal and social development are being imaginatively tackled and the school as a whole has been enriched. A central purpose of our school working with The Outward Bound Trust is to empower our pupils and prepare them for the ever-changing rigours of life in the 21st century.


Have we succeeded?


In 2012 I attended the Lambeth Achievement awards, where one of our pupils was receiving an award. Before going on the three courses, this young girl was achieving at Level 2, would not say boo to a goose, had difficulty processing information and was the object of regular teasing from other children. The course transformed her before our eyes, as we saw her confidence and self-esteem grow with every new challenge she undertook in the outdoors.


Hillhead High School


Mairi Gowens, PE teacher at Hillhead High School


responsible for Extra Curricular Activities and the school’s charity work, describes how the school uses outdoor learning to develop leadership in its students.


In the last six years Hillhead High has placed greater emphasis on encouraging student leadership and outdoor learning has played a central role in this.


Hillhead High School is located in the west end of Glasgow, has 900 students on roll and is fully comprehensive. It’s a diverse school with youngsters speaking 29 different first languages and over 70 different languages spoken within the school.


There is a long tradition of outdoor learning at Hillhead High and in any year there are more than 60 different projects and activities taking place. These give students the opportunity to pursue a wide range of interests including: • sports activities and promotion of sport • environmental projects • working with the wider community • campaigns to raise awareness and money for charitable causes.


For example this year we are involved in the British Olympic Foundation’s Youth Volunteer Programme: Get Set to Make a Change; the John Muir Award for working in the environment; Duke of Edinburgh Award; fundraising for the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice as their lead school in Glasgow; Lead 2014 & Young Ambassadors; and the Mark Scott Award for Leadership for Life.


May 2014


Her newfound resilience has been so good to see and her academic achievement has rocketed to Level 4 across the board. Since this first intervention in 2011 we have continued this programme, each year taking Year 6 through our three course Outward Bound programme. Teachers know that every child has the potential to grow and to change, but realising this potential can often seem impossible without meaningful interventions. The philosophies and quality of instruction and interaction between The Trust’s staff and children empowers those kids to take that step outside their comfort zone, developing skills and qualities that help enable them to thrive both now and in the future.


Top Tips For Teachers Considering Outdoor Residential Learning Courses


• Clearly define the needs, aims and objectives for your school/ year/ class taking part in outdoor learning – improved team work, increasing resilience, developing confidence, raising low self-esteem, etc


• Closely collaborate with outdoor learning providers and gain an understanding of how they will work with your school to achieve these aims – not only during the residential but also the support they offer teachers, parents and pupils before, during and after the programme


• Fully engage parents and carers to gain their understanding and approval of what the schools is trying to achieve for their children


• Ensure all teachers have a full insight into the learning objectives and the process their pupils will be engaging in through experiential outdoor learning


• Explore bursary, school and parent funding for each pupil to attend a residential course


• Headteachers and teachers should wherever possible attend a ‘taster session’ by the outdoor learning provider to fully immerse themselves and have first hand experience of what can be achieved


Encouraging students to lead A number of factors led to us actively encouraging greater student leadership. Curriculum for Excellence, the Scottish curriculum that launched in 2011, places more emphasis on encouraging students to take the initiative and lead. Also, HM Inspectors highlighted in two separate reports that more could be done to empower staff to lead and, building on this we felt that students should be playing more of a leadership role. We were confident that letting learners take the lead could benefit teaching and learning, and make a valuable contribution to the culture of the school.


Laying the foundations


We identified early on that we needed to make a sustained commitment to developing leadership skills. We felt it was essential that we build our students’ capacity to lead.


We sought out opportunities for students to undertake leadership training and currently we offer a wide range including: • Senior Sports Leader • Young Ambassadors • Get Set to Make a Change - Legacy Leaders programme


• Mark Scott Award for Leadership for Life www.education-today.co.uk 19


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