Many adults today will have fond memories of a favourite teacher taking a lesson outdoors on a sunny day during the summer term. It appears this is far more than just fun, according to the charity, Learning Through Landscapes, which promotes children’s outdoor activities and better use of school playgrounds.
New research reveals that improving school grounds can help with pupil behaviour. The study claims a school’s environment can positively influence the students’ development, enhancing self-esteem, boosting academic performance and reducing vandalism and bullying.
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Helping pupils to connect with nature, so they feel happier in their surroundings, will positively impact on their attitude to learning, according to LTL. The charity’s research claims the learning and teaching potential of school grounds isn’t been utilised. Currently, only 30% of the “significant potential” of the grounds is being taken up.
The charity hopes its study will spur local education authorities into spending more money on improving facilities. It believes the great outdoors is an ideal backdrop for teachers to mentor pupils who are having everyday struggles in the classroom.
Creating a better environment could be particularly useful in encouraging secondary school pupils to stay in education. If the pupils take pride in their surroundings, it may also reduce vandalism, while instances of bullying and other bad behaviour may also be reduced if pupils have the chance to flourish in a more relaxed and pleasant atmosphere.
The charity’s findings are in line with the government’s own strategy, calling for more involvement for children’s outdoor activities. These ideas will be highlighted further during the annual National School Grounds Week event, which takes place between 10th and 14th June this year.
The National Union of Teachers supports the findings and says research into school buildings, housing estates and other communal areas has always pointed to the fact that improving people’s surroundings also improves their behaviour.
School grounds traditionally offer areas for sporting activities and playtime, but there are also opportunities to expand the outdoor curriculum, so pupils can learn about birds, plants and nature by studying outdoors.
The ideas are supported by the National Association of Head Teachers, which is calling for more funding to improve school grounds. The NAT said this would give pupils a “feel-good factor”, which would lead to a better performance academically.
Access for all
Schools and the Local Education Authority should promote the inclusion of special needs pupils in every aspect of school life. An important aspect of improving the school environment is making sure it provides access for pupils who are disabled.
By law, every school must make “reasonable adjustments” to ensure every individual pupil can gain access. The school must have a plan to improve accessibility for students with special needs if the facilities are not up to scratch.
In order to prepare a plan, the school must commission an Access Audit and publish the results. It must outline how the school will improve the students’ physical environment and detail the “reasonable adjustments” it is planning: these can include simple things, such as making sure the lessons are held in ground floor classrooms, when one of the pupils in the class uses a wheelchair and the school doesn’t have a lift.
Parents are at liberty to discuss with the school what it plans to do to include their child.
Improvements to the physical environment can include replacing manual doors with automatic alternatives – access will be easier for pupils with limited mobility and for those who might be physically challenged in some way.
Automatic Access is one of the UK’s top automatic door specialists – we can help schools ensure there is equal accessibility for everyone. For more information, or if you would like an informal chat to discuss your requirements, contact us today.