Educational visits - Sail away

Fresh air and a new perspective can do wonders for teachers and their pupils. David Gardner looks at the importance of learning outside the classroom

Talking recently to Year 13 students at West Somerset College in Minehead, Somerset, one told me how, when preparing for exams, he was surprised to remember so much about a fieldwork trip to Wales the previous year. "My understanding of glacial erosional landforms was much clearer than that for the landforms I hadn't seen as part of the fieldwork," he said.

The curriculum in its widest sense is the entire planned learning experience for pupils. This includes formal lessons as well as the events, routines, visits and learning that take place outside of the classroom and beyond the school. All of these components are interconnected.

The new secondary curriculum provides opportunities for schools and organisations such as museums to design compelling learning experiences that support the new aims of the curriculum to develop successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens.

These opportunities have been taken up in different ways. For example, the Year of Food and Farming campaign, which finished this July, provided children with farm and countryside visits, to get a first-hand picture of where food comes from.

It benefited academic achievement, but also the development, health and wellbeing of children. Young people told us during and after visits to farms how much they enjoyed and appreciated the open space and fresh air away from the noise and congestion of the city, as well as learning design and technology and English and understanding more about work on the farm.

Teachers have also taken part in Engaging Places, a project developed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to give pupils the opportunity to visit and learn more about architecture and local heritage.

To help schools incorporate more learning outside the classroom into the curriculum, the Department for Children, Schools and Families has developed an Out amp; About package of web-based support, advice and guidance to be published in October 2008.

The package will help schools to plan, run and evaluate exciting experiences that offer relevant challenges for young people

David Gardner is programme manager for the curriculum division at the QCA.


- Further support is available at the national curriculum website

- Look at potential outside the classroom activities on

- Out amp; About will be available at from October 2008.

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