NAEE’s recent featured book was a report by the social change consultancy, NotDeadFish: Work on the Wild Side.  You can download it here.  The report “attempts to debunk the myth that outdoor learning and residentials are not viable teaching mechanisms“.  I’m not sure that this myth actually exists, and neither, I suspect, do the authors of the report as they assert in the report:

  1. that children and young people benefit from being outside has almost universal agreement.
  2. that not all children and young people are spending as much time outside as they should is also well evidenced.
  3. teachers, school leaders, parents and others with an interest in education generally support the principle that schools have a key role in ensuring that all children and young people benefit from being outdoors – from outdoor learning, to residentials away from home, to more time outside the classroom.
  4. at a time of restricted curricula, reduced school budget, high accountability frameworks and a context in which school leaders are hyper aware of ‘risk’, in every sense of the word, there is a justified fear that schools might deprioritise outdoor learning.

Whilst NAEE hasn’t reviewed the report, I have commented on it my personal blog which you can read here.  If you read this you’ll see that I saw nothing new in it, although the approach was novel.  It seemed to me that there wasn’t anything in it to persuade policy-makers to change their view about outdoor learning – which is (I paraphrase …) that it’s a valuable part of school life, and that schools might incorporate it into what do in ways that make contextual and contingent sense to them.

This is how my review ends:

“The collaborators on this project included: the English Outdoor Learning Council, the Institute for Outdoor Learning, Learning Away, and the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom.  Isn’t is absurd that all these outfits continue to exist as separate entities thereby diluting their effectiveness?  Time for mergers and acquisitions …”

In the good old days, I’m thinking about the time of the Council for Environmental Education, there would have been one national voice speaking up for outdoor learning, with member organisations chipping in from their particular perspective, interests and expertise.  But that seems a long time ago now, and anyway CEE was wrecked by clashes between what it and its members did – well, some of its members – and by the limitations of its mode of governance.   This is why it’s not a model that can be reinvented now.  But maybe there is some scope for some consolidation of the various organisations whose interests and aims overlap.  Maybe.

Of course, if you read the notdeadfish report from cover to cover you come to realise that quite a lot of what is classed as outdoor learning actually takes place indoors, and has nothing very much to do with environmental education, ESD, LSD, etc..  It would be better described, perhaps, as Out of Classroom Learning [OCL], but that’s for another day.


William Scott; Chair of NAEE Trustees – writing in a personal capacity.

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