Education top of the Bill for the UK Government

The new UK Government's proposed education legislation is a great opportunity to highlight the importance of outdoor learning in the curriculum.

In her speech, on the 26th May 2010, the Queen announced 22 pieces of legislation and one draft that will form the new Governments legislative agenda in this Parliamentary session. With all the splendour of the State Opening of Parliament out the way, its time for the Government to get down to business and to education looks set to be top of the Bills.

An Education and Children’s Bill and an Academies Bill have been proposed to implement the reforms to education this new Governments wishes to make. Simply put, these Bills aim to give schools and teachers greater freedoms over the curriculum, empower them to use their expertise to drive up standards and enable new providers to run state schools. This legislation promises big changes to the way schools are run and our children taught and with the priority being given to education it is a great opportunity to highlight the importance of outdoor learning in the curriculum to the new Government.

In the context of The Countryside Alliance Foundation outdoor education campaign it is the Education and Children’s Bill that is most relevant. The main elements of the Bill aim to:

  • Provide schools with the freedoms to deliver an excellent education in the way they see fit.
  • Reform Ofsted and other accountability frameworks to ensure that head teachers are held properly accountable for the core educational goals of attainment and closing the gap between rich and poor.
  • Introduce a slimmer curriculum giving more space for teachers to decide how to teach.
  • Introduce a reading test for 6 year olds to make sure that young children are learning and to identify problems early.
  • Give teachers and head teachers the powers to improve behaviour and tackle bullying.

The full details of the Bill are not yet available, but on the face of it proposals that seek to give teachers more freedom to drive up standards in the way they see fit and to empower them to tackle disruptive or anti-social behaviour is to be welcomed.

However, while there are merits in enabling greater freedoms in teaching and a slimmer curriculum, we would advocate for the continuation and further strengthening of the pledge - made in the Learning
Outside the Classroom Manifesto - to ensure all children have access to a wide range of outdoor learning opportunities as part of their school experience.

The UK we’re blessed with thousands of acres of publicly available land and hundreds of world famous historical sites to inspire children to engage with learning. The greater freedoms of this Bill give schools further opportunities to use the outdoors to add depth to the curriculum by helping pupils consolidate classroom
learning through real world experience. However, we believe that an entitlement to outdoor education should be created to ensure all children have access to the considerable benefits it offers, not just those children whose schools value it.

An entitlement doesn’t have to rigidly specify the types of outdoor education to be taught, but rather to install a duty on all schools to give outdoor learning the priority it deserves within the timetable, and to focus the Government to allocate the resources needed to ensure its delivery in schools as an integral part of how the curriculum is delivered.

In the last Parliament, The Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, published a report - Transforming Education Outside the Classroom - which contains a number of very welcome recommendations, including the adoption of our proposal to make outdoor education an entitlement within the National Curriculum. We look forward to the Government’s response to this report and working with them to make the countryside a part of young people’s education.

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