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PLoS One. 2019 May 31;14(5):e0212242. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0212242. eCollection 2019.

Curriculum-based outdoor learning for children aged 9-11: A qualitative analysis of pupils' and teachers' views.

Author information

1
Medical School, Swansea University, Swansea, United Kingdom.
2
School of Education, Swansea University, Swansea, United Kingdom.
3
School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Swansea University, Swansea, United Kingdom.
4
St Thomas Community Primary School, Swansea, United Kingdom.

Abstract

The relationship between child health, wellbeing and education demonstrates that healthier and happier children achieve higher educational attainment. An engaging curriculum that facilitates children in achieving their academic potential has strong implications for educational outcomes, future employment prospects, and health and wellbeing during adulthood. Outdoor learning is a pedagogical approach used to enrich learning, enhance school engagement and improve pupil health and wellbeing. However, its non-traditional means of achieving curricular aims are not yet recognised beyond the early years by education inspectorates. This requires evidence into its acceptability from those at the forefront of delivery. This study aimed to explore headteachers', teachers' and pupils' views and experiences of an outdoor learning programme within the key stage two curriculum (ages 9-11) in South Wales, United Kingdom. We examine the process of implementation to offer case study evidence through 1:1 interviews with headteachers (n = 3) and teachers (n = 10) and focus groups with pupils aged 9-11 (n = 10) from three primary schools. Interviews and focus groups were conducted at baseline and six months into implementation. Schools introduced regular outdoor learning within the curriculum. This study found a variety of perceived benefits for pupils and schools. Pupils and teachers noticed improvements in pupils' engagement with learning, concentration and behaviour, as well as positive impacts on health and wellbeing and teachers' job satisfaction. Curriculum demands including testing and evidencing work were barriers to implementation, in addition to safety concerns, resources and teacher confidence. Participants supported outdoor learning as a curriculum-based programme for older primary school pupils. However, embedding outdoor learning within the curriculum requires education inspectorates to place higher value on this approach in achieving curricular aims, alongside greater acknowledgment of the wider benefits to children which current measurements do not capture.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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