Time is too tight, say teachers

17th February 2006 at 00:00
Teachers want extra staff to cover trips and more non-contact time to organise them, a Scottish Natural Heritage-funded study has found.

Peter Higgins, head of the outdoor and environmental education department at Edinburgh University, said that teachers made a "remarkable effort" to move learning outside the classroom despite a "lack of curricular imperative" and significant organisational barriers.

His department's study involved primary teachers in Edinburgh and parts of Highland and biology and geography staff in the same areas. Findings were the same for both geographically different regions, Dr Higgins said.

Teachers weighed up the benefits of the outdoors against factors such as cost and the time involved. There were worries about fundraising and how to arrange for cover while they were out of school. Trips also involved preparation time. Dr Higgins said that safety came about fourth in teachers' list of concerns.

The report, to be published shortly, will recommend headteachers adopt a stronger advocacy role for outdoor learning from primary through to secondary and within the guidelines of the revised A Curriculum for Excellence plans of the Scottish Executive.

Among other suggestions are school co-ordinators for excursions and field studies, easily accessible cash to cover costs and easier access to minibuses and field equipment in primaries. Primary teachers in particular should be able to bring in experts.

"Both primary and secondary teachers thought that preprepared packs or local trails, and perhaps some initial ranger input, would be valuable.

These were seen as time-saving and value-enhancing, but it would be a large exercise to provide for local contexts," Dr Higgins said.

Teachers' approaches and attitudes to engaging with the natural heritage through the curriculum will be published by Scottish Natural Heritage.

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