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Outdoor Education

Volume 486: debated on Thursday 22 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what assessment he has made of the extent to which teacher training courses facilitates the use of fieldwork as a teaching method in schools; (247955)

(2) what steps he is taking to improve the confidence of (a) science teachers and (b) geography teachers in using fieldwork;

(3) if his Department will commission research to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the state of fieldwork in secondary science education for 14 to 19-year-olds.

The Department has not made a formal assessment of the benefits of fieldwork and out-of-classroom activity. However, there is a body of research that demonstrates the value of learning outside the classroom to which the Department has contributed; key reports can be found at:

www.lotc.org.uk/resources/research

Ofsted’s report “Learning outside the classroom: how far should you go?” was published on 2 October 2008. A key finding is

“When planned and implemented well, learning outside the classroom contributed significantly to raising standards and improving pupils’ personal, social and emotional development.”

To support and develop teachers in using fieldwork as high quality learning experiences, a network of science learning centres provides a range of continuing professional development opportunities throughout the year. These cover chemistry, physics and biology and all key stages of the science curriculum.

Through the Government funded Action Plan for Geography, the Royal Geographical Society and the Geographical Association have developed online resources and guidance. These are available at:

http://www.geographyteachingtoday.org.uk/

and include a virtual fieldwork and local learning centre to help teachers make the most of geography in their local areas. The website contains expert advice on embedding fieldwork in the curriculum.

The Department has made no assessment of whether the encouragement of fieldwork as a teaching method is adequately supported by teacher training courses. However, the current standards for the award of qualified teacher status (QTS) set out what trainee teachers must demonstrate before they can be recommended for the award. QTS Standard Q30 requires that all trainees demonstrate that they can

“establish a purposeful and safe learning environment conducive to learning and identify opportunities for learners to learn in out-of-school contexts”.

Training and Development Agency for Schools guidance to this standard states that

“trainees should be able to identify opportunities for children and young people to learn in the school grounds and in out-of-school contexts such as museums, theatres, field centres and work settings”.

All initial teacher training provision is inspected by Ofsted to ensure that training is designed and delivered to enable every trainee to meet all of the QTS standards, including standard Q30 that relates to learning outside of the classroom.

Through the manifesto for learning outside the classroom, DCSF is supporting “Teaching Outside the Classroom” at:

www.teachingoutsidetheclassroom.com

which facilitates placements for trainee teachers in settings such as museums, city farms and field study centres.

The Government have no plans to commission research to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the state of fieldwork in secondary science education for 14 to 19-year-olds.