Want to raise children’s attainment? Then get them outside!


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Want to raise children’s attainment? Then get them outside!

With access to outdoors on the decline and use of technology on the increase, it is more important than ever that we get children outside and, with growing evidence that limited outdoor access is having a detrimental affect on children. where better to do that than in school.

Richard Louv,  (The Last Child in the Woods), talks about ‘nature deficit disorder‘ where children are becoming disconnected from the natural world.   Tim Gill’s article – ‘children being reared in captivity‘  concurs and discusses the reasons why, over the past two generations, children have become divorced from the natural world and how this has led to the rise of the ‘helicopter parent’, who provides for play by ferrying children from one structured activity to another, leaving them with no time for independent play in an outdoor environment. This ‘battery hen existence’, according to Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner, is impacting on children’s health and wellbeing,

Research has shown that it is during unstructured play when children learn best as they take risks, problem solve and develop the skills of negotiation and conflict resolution.

I often wonder what the barrier to learning outside is, in schools? Is it concerns around behaviour, organisation, storage, lack of knowledge, staffing, inclement weather or lack of support from leadership.  In addition, with such a great emphasis on basic skills and so many things having to be squeezed into the school day, educators may be reluctant to lose precious time to outdoors, for what many may perceive, to cater purely for physical development.

All areas of the curriculum however can be taught outside and studies have shown that this can have a massive impact on attainment.

One small, Scottish study recently demonstrated how children made 6 months progress in mental maths, in just a few short weeks, by having maths lessons outside.

‘These results were unexpected and, we think, noteworthy in that for a 12 week programme (2hrs per week) the children gained on average 6 months of Mental Arithmetic and 2 months of General Maths against a similar cohort of children within the control schools.’

Amazing hey?    This is not the only research which shows the positive impact that outdoor learning has across all areas of the curriculum, as well as on behaviour, engagement, health and wellbeing…..the list goes on and on!

Have a look at the film of the Natural Connections Demonstration Project, below, to find out about the impact this 4 year project had on schools, teachers and the children involved, particularly for those in areas of deprivation.


Children learn best through being active and interacting with the the world around them.  Take vocabulary for example, a significant indicator of future success. How is this impacted by being outside?   Being active, using their senses and learning and using new vocabulary in context significantly effects how children retain information.

Quite often, at this time of year, children are asked to write poems or produce some descriptive writing about leaves.  Imagine one group of children being sent outside, prior to writing, to experience playing in the leaves, throwing them in the air and watching how they float to the ground or are blown in the wind. Listening to the sounds they make as they wade through them and smell their damp, musty aroma.  Compare this to a group of children sitting at table, with some pictures of leaves or even some actual leaves. Whose writing do you think will be more evocative? Whose vocabulary is likely to be enriched by the experience?

Things to think about maybe, when planning for next week?


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