Outdoor learning in the school grounds
To inject some enthusiasm into this dimension of school life, the DfES has invested £250,000 in a garden designed by Chris Beardshaw for exhibition at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The garden will involve collaboration with children from twenty schools across England to design a garden which will offer first hand experience of growing plants, and enhancing learning of the national curriculum. In time, the garden will be permanently located in the north of England as a resource to train teachers and show a 'realistic vision of what can be built in school grounds'.
My views on the potential of school gardens have been permanently transformed by the phenomenal achievements of the staff and pupils of Palatine School in West Sussex. Working to their mottos, 'I can and I will' and 'Green Fingers and Growing Minds', Palatine has tackled social inclusion head-on through its school gardening project, and is an inspiration to many. While not all schools will be able to replicate the success of Palatine School in creating such an extensive outdoor resource, the need for all teachers to be aware of what the outdoor curriculum can achieve (Palatine teachers report a notable change in behaviour and attitude among others) has arguably never been greater.
So as a CPD coordinator what can you do? These ideas may help:
- You know the development needs of the staff at your school and how they fit in with the school improvement plan. Is it possible to map those over the Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto?
- Partner organisations have pledged support in the form of training and professional development opportunities for schools. A full list of those organisations can be found here. Are there any local to you that you could utilise for your school?
- What training and development does your local authority offer to help teachers to make the most of the outdoor curriculum?
- Are there any possibilities for staff members to conduct research into issues arising from the provision of an outdoor curriculum in your school?
Rather than being yet another target to check off the list, developing your school's outdoor curriculum might in itself lead to extensive development opportunities for all those involved. And it’s not just for the foundation stage either!
Issues and information: staff retention
Although the Department for Education and Skills insists it is because there are simply more teachers in post, the figures of those teachers opting for early retirement are nevertheless slightly alarming. The bottom line is that in 2006, 9,680 teachers retired before the age of 60, compared with 6,740 a few years before.
Without comprehensive exit interviews to analyse, we have little idea of why so many chose to leave when they did. The Opposition party is hazarding the guess that these teachers were ‘struggling with poorly behaved pupils and repeated government initiatives’. That’s shaky ground for either of the major parties to occupy when neither seems willing to entertain the idea that smaller class sizes might lead to far more effective personalised learning, ever improving standards and a workforce that isn’t frazzled to the bone for the greater part of the year.
However, knowing whether members of your staff are considering the prospect of drawing an early pension for 'push' rather than 'pull' factors is important for CPD coordinators. If staff are intending to leave for retirement purposes, and your school would have to replace them, might targeted CPD (shall we say, personalised) be an answer?