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


using bricks

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?


Autumn treats

photography of child pushing the wagon
Photo by Jennifer Murray on Pexels.com

Autumn has well and truly arrived, bringing with it lots of lovely loose materials for children to play and create with.  Here are some great ideas for activities and games you can play with the children.   The best way to start is to get outside and collect the resources together, as that is an adventure in itself!

If your outside area is more concrete jungle than a green one, why don’t you bring large bags with you to collect leaves and bring them back to your setting?  I have done this in the past, much to the delight of the children.  It kept them engaged and entertained for hours and provided a starting point for many activities and interests.

Lunchtime….the least considered part of the school day!

Lunchtime….the least considered part of the school day!


Interesting debate on MUMSNET recently about play restrictions at lunchtime. Unfortunately there is truth in most of the comments, particularly the predominance of football, which banishes girls to the playground periphery and also the sad demise of many a playground game.  Of course health and safety issues need to be addressed but nothing is solved by an outright ban of children’s play.

The benefits of outdoor learning

The benefits of outdoor learning

IMG_0709There is a wealth of research advocating the benefits of outdoor learning but one of the most useful, I’ve found, is the research project carried out by  Plymouth University, on behalf of Natural England, which ran from 2012-2016.

This was an initiative to help school children – particularly those from disadvantaged areas – experience the benefits of the natural environment by encouraging teachers to use the outdoors to support everyday learning. It took place in 125 schools across the South West of England, helping more than 40,000 primary and secondary school pupils to learn outside of the classroom.