THE OFFICE for Standards in Education is refusing to publish a report which heaps praise on outdoor activities, drawing accusations that it is biased against non-academic pursuits.
The TES has obtained a copy of the report which details the "enormous benefits" gained when schools choose the outdoor and adventurous activities option as part of physical education.
"It is regrettable that the chief inspector of schools is unable to publish a survey that confirms the contribution that outdoor education can make," said Brian Davies, chairman of the Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres and Oxfordshire's advisory teacher for outdoor education. "Outdoor education addresses the needs of the whole child; that approach doesn't sit easily with a narrow and utilitarian national curriculum."
At an association conference last week, members argued that outdoor education had been threatened by Fair Funding proposals and that the inspectors' report could provide key evidence to support their cause.
"The value of the outdoor experience is often put in anecdotal terms. This report gave an independent objective assessment," said Mr Davies, "It would have allowed us to put the case, for example by making the connection between outdoor and adventurous activities and citizenship."
OFSTED looked at outdoor and adventurous activities in 33 schools earlier this year.
Pupils across the age and ability range were observed. The report paints a glowing picture. It describes pupils' behaviour as "exemplary" at all types of school and says teachers' class-management skills were "of a high order in every context."
The report said that outdoor activities:
build on the commitment and enthusiasm of teachers;
are of enormous benefit to primary and secondary pupils making a discernible impact on behaviour and relationships;
entail educative processes and experiences that are as valuable as the activity skills themselves.
However, the inspectors added that the full benefit to pupils' knowledge, understanding and skills is often lost because of inadequate record-keeping and through under-reporting in school inspections.
Theinspectors admit that it is unusual for them to report on outdoor and adventurous activities. The outdoor education association members argue that this is typical of a regime focused on exam results and school statistics.
OFSTED confirmed that the report had not been published. A spokesman said:
"There's no automatic assumption that a survey will be published. A lot depends on whether a piece of work has anything new or valuable to say."