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Primary's outdoor work wins high praise

Pupils at Tayvallich Primary School in Argyll and Bute do their learning outdoors whenever weather permits - and HMIE inspectors have been hugely impressed with the results.

The report on the 24-pupil school and pre-five unit (its combined roll has grown to 26 since the inspection last year) gained seven "very good" commendations and an "excellent" for learners' experiences.

The headteacher, Margery Bicket, and her staff are praised for their success in making connections between their current programme of study and A Curriculum for Excellence.

Initiatives have included making a safe path to school from the village hall, where P1-7 pupils do PE and pre-five pupils attend nursery; planting a tree nursery and bird observation area; involvement in a local wildlife park; creating their own flower and vegetable beds within school grounds, with the help of parents; and building a pirate ship for the playground which has been a stimulus for everything from numeracy work to drama.

"We do a lot of active maths, from P1-7, in our outdoor classroom," Miss Bicket said. "We even do French outdoors."

Learning outside makes children more alert than when they are stuck behind a desk, she believes. It also makes learning more enjoyable.

The staff believe in giving pupils a say in what they should be learning, as well as giving them the chance to run their own eco-school projects - this year, they built a solar-powered fountain.

"Why not?" said Miss Bicket. "To me it makes sense. It's making a child part of the learning experience rather than this thing being done to them. (The children) become so motivated and they are active in their own learning."

One of the two job-share teachers in the school, Jacquelyn Condie, sums up the school's philosophy: "To promote active outdoor learning to improve the quality of their education as well as support children's emotional, social and physical wellbeing."

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