The recognition and reporting of outdoor learning in primary schools in England

Prince, Heather ORCID logo ORCID: and Diggory, Olivia (2022) The recognition and reporting of outdoor learning in primary schools in England. In: 9th International Outdoor Education Research Conference (IOERC9), 18-22 July 2022, Ambleside, UK. (Unpublished)

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The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) inspects and reports on the quality and effectiveness of educational provision in England. This research explores the extent to which non-mandatory curricular outdoor learning was recognised and reported by Ofsted in their inspections of state-maintained English primary schools (3-11 years) between September 2019 and February 2020. It provides a proxy measure for the extent, nature and status of outdoor learning at a national level.

Of the published reports (n= 629) 42% mentioned at least one search word: ‘outdoor’, ‘outside’ or ‘residential’. Most comments about outdoor learning related to the Early Years Foundation Stage (3-5 years, 71%) where it is a statutory requirement for schools to have access to an outdoor environment or have planned outdoor activities every day (DfE, 2021). Inspectors’ comments were mainly positive, reporting on learning and enjoyment although some pertained to the need to develop quality outdoor space and learning in that setting. Outdoor learning in primary schools more widely supported learning and enjoyment (29% of comments), with some neutral reporting of occurrences in schools, or on day or residential visits. Residentials were mentioned in 15% of the reports.

The data obtained through the lens of school inspectors indicate positive outcomes for those pupils in primary schools who have opportunities for outdoor learning, although in the majority of schools it may take a different form, is not reported or does not take place.

Department for Education (DfE) (2021) Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage: Setting the Standards for Learning, Development and Care from Children Birth to Five. Available at:

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Departments: Institute of Science and Environment > Outdoor Studies
Depositing User: Heather Prince
Date Deposited: 07 Oct 2022 11:34
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2024 13:45


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