Children in danger of becoming entombed in their homes

01 April 2010

The Children, Schools and Families Committee publishes its latest report on progress on children's education outside the classroom. It points to the lack of growth in recent years in the number of school trips and visits, and says pupils from poorer areas are still much less likely to take them.

Learning outside the classroom must not become only the preserve of pupils from privileged backgrounds, says the Children, Schools and Families Committee in a report published today.

Five years on from the Committee’s original report on education outside the classroom, progress in addressing the barriers to learning outside the classroom has been disappointing:

  • funding to support related initiatives has been derisory
  • teachers’ fears over health and safety litigation, making them reluctant to offer trips and visits, have not been effectively addressed
  • teacher training continues to pay scant attention to giving new teachers the skills and confidence to lead school trips and visits
  • the new ‘rarely cover’ provisions have led to many schools cutting back on opportunities for pupils and teachers

A modest increase in resources for learning outside the classroom would make a tremendous difference to this important area of provision for pupils.

The Committee commends the principle of subsidies for children from low-income families to go on school visits.

In order for schools to take learning outside the classroom seriously, there needs to be an individual entitlement guaranteed within the national curriculum.

So that this can happen the Committee proposes:

  • the promised revised health and safety guidance must be published at the earliest opportunity to help allay teachers’ litigation fears
  • more high profile champions of learning outside the classroom are required
  • the Department and teacher unions must provide stronger leadership on how ‘rarely cover’ provisions are interpreted

A clearer and more consistent presence must be given to learning outside the classroom in initial teacher training and early career and ongoing professional development.

Barry Sheerman MP, Committee Chair, commented:

"The steep decline in the amount of time children are spending outside is shocking. Research has shown that the likelihood of a child visiting any green space has halved in a generation.

"It is vital for the Government to make a commitment to a serious funding increase to ensure that all children have opportunities to visit the wealth of museums and galleries, and the natural environment of the English countryside, which are at our disposal."

Image: iStockphoto

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