“Not enough children learning and playing outside”

17th May 2018

A call from more than eight out of ten (81%) UK teachers on Global Outdoor Classroom Day 2018

Today, global Outdoor Classroom Day returns, with over 1.7 million children and young people around the world and more than 340,000 in the UK and Republic of Ireland (ROI) participating in outdoor lessons and play. However, national education charity, Learning through Landscapes (LTL) and Project Dirt, highlight in a new report that more than eight out of ten (81 per cent) teachers in the UK don’t think there is enough learning outdoors and there should be more.

More than eight out of ten (81 per cent) teachers across the UK said they’d like to take their classes outside more often and nearly half (45 per cent) blame not doing so on the pressures of the curriculum. Despite 64 per cent of schools taking lessons outdoors more than once a week, just over half (58 per cent) of teachers in the UK blamed the weather for stopping outdoor learning.

Outdoor play was also a feature of the research which showed that while over half (55 per cent) of UK teachers thought that there should be more playtime in schools, our children actually enjoy more than others around the world. Shockingly, the survey revealed that two-fifths (40 per cent) of US Primary Schools provide less than half an hour a day, and more than four-fifths (89 per cent) get less than an hour. Two-fifths (40 per cent) of the UK’s Primary Schools get more than an hour of playtime a day, not including time to eat lunch.

Following the Government’s recognition of the importance of time outdoors in the DEFRA 25 year environmental plan launched earlier this year, with £10 million in funding to support outdoor activities, Outdoor Classroom Day highlights there’s still much progress to be made.

Maths was the UK teachers’ favourite lesson to take outdoors last year, so it’s perhaps fortuitous that the Day coincides with the last Maths SATs test of the week for children in Year 6 KS2 in England. As such, teachers and children are encouraged to spend at least 90 minutes outdoors on this day – and every school day – particularly during the exam season, to help maintain mental and physical wellbeing, and reduce anxiety levels.

Spending time outdoors is proven to support positive mental health; with almost all (98 per cent) teachers stating that time spent playing outdoors improves children’s social skills and more than four-fifths (84 per cent) saying that it made children happier. In relation to children developing useful skills to support test performance, three-quarters (75 per cent) of teachers stated that outdoor play improved their children’s levels of concentration and nine out of ten (90 per cent) UK teachers said children engaged more in learning when they spent lessons outdoors.

Spending more time outdoors may be as important for teachers’ wellbeing as that of their pupils. In a previous report on outdoor learning, the Natural Connections partnership with universities revealed that nine out of ten (90 per cent) staff found outdoor learning useful for delivering the curriculum, and more than seven out of ten (72 per cent) said that taking lessons outdoors was good for their own mental wellbeing.

Globally, children in more than 100 countries including France, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, USA, Canada South Africa and Thailand, are joining forces to celebrate the Day. In addition to championing play, teachers will lead a wide variety of lessons including outdoor Maths, English and Science, gardening and eco projects, outdoor-cooking, mindfulness, den-building, Art and Drama, tree climbing and much more.

Sir David Attenborough, Learning through Landscapes Patron, commenting on tarmac playgrounds in a recent film about school grounds, said:

“Natural outdoor environments can offer a very special kind of learning experience: the opportunity for discovery and learning through touching and feeling, the chance to explore and take risks, the stimulations of the fresh air and limitless skies. And yet, we are steadily depriving our children of these wonders. This is why the quality of the last remaining external environment to which many children have frequent access: the school grounds, is so important. Barren tarmac playgrounds may have been sufficient for my generation with freedom to roam, but times have changed and so too must our attitude to these vital spaces.”

Sir Ken Robinson, Author and Educator speaking about the importance of play and raising its profile through initiatives like Outdoor Classroom Day, said:

“Play helps children to learn and experiment, to focus and concentrate, be more self-directed, and to build social confidence. Getting out and breathing- that’s what Outdoor Classroom Day is about.”

Carley Sefton, CEO of Learning through Landscapes said:

“Increasing the time children spend outdoors learning and playing is a free and practical way to address a time-bomb of childhood health and wellbeing issues. What’s more, it helps to enhance engagement in learning across the curriculum and enables children to develop positive relationships with the natural environment. In this week, more than any other, when children are taking SATs or other tests, it is critically important that we enable them to develop the skills to handle the pressures they may experience. Outdoor Classroom Day is a call for teachers, schools and parents to join us in celebrating the benefits of daily outdoor learning and play. ”

Last year, one in five (22 per cent) of the schools that took part in Outdoor Classroom Day said they have increased the amount of outdoors playtime since participating, and just under half (44 per cent) have increased time for outdoor learning. They also tell us that as they increase time outdoors, parents and other teachers at the school get more supportive to committing time outdoors.

Teachers can register their school at www.outdoorclassroomday.org.uk Parents and supporters can also sign up to get posters and letters to encourage schools they know to get involved.


Download the UK Press Release, the Republic of Ireland Press Release, and the Survey- Outdoor Play and Learning at School, below:


The Impact of Outdoor Learning and Play

OCDay UK national press release

OCDay ROI national press release


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