1. Campaigning for equal opportunities in learning outside the classroom
Submitting InstitutionCardiff University
Unit of AssessmentEducation
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education
Summary of the impact
Research undertaken at Cardiff University provided important evidence
about unequal access to Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) between
social groups as well as providing the foundation for campaigning for
equal opportunities in this area. Learning Outside the Classroom covers
those activities which children undertake beyond the confines of the
school walls. These can range from residential trips to international
destinations to short visits to local museums and parks. These kinds of
activities are widely recognised as being beneficial for children's
emotional, cognitive and social development.
The impact of this research can be traced through collaboration with
voluntary sector organisations and the UK government to evidence given to
various House of Commons Select Committee enquiries, to the raising of the
debate in Parliament through an Early Day Motion and then to support for
the establishment of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom
(CLOtC) — which provides a link to LOtC organisations and professionals.
The research, carried out by Professor Sally Power (2004 - present),
Professor Chris Taylor (2000 - present), Professor Gareth Rees (1995 -
present) and Katie Jones (Researcher, 2006 - 2008) involved two externally
funded projects which investigated a) the extent of LOtC activities taking
place across schools in the UK and b) the vulnerability in local authority
Provision of and participation in LOtC activities
This project was funded by the Real World Learning Campaign (sponsored by
the Field Studies Council, PGL, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and others) and was carried out in
2006-7. The research involved a survey of a stratified random sample of UK
local authorities and secondary schools which yielded a comprehensive
picture of the provision of and participation in LOtC activities. This was
the first systematic UK-wide survey, covering all curriculum areas and
including independent and state-maintained schools, as well as special
schools. These data provided a map of patterns of provision and
participation and were used to identify `over- and `under-providing'
schools where qualitative research was undertaken with teachers and
children. The survey provided the first robust evidence of the extent to
which there are systematic variations in the provision of LOtC activities,
with those schools with the highest proportion of students eligible for
free school meals offering the fewest opportunities. The qualitative
research revealed further in-school processes which meant that those
students most in need of enrichment — those from minority ethnic groups,
with learning and behavioural disabilities, and those from poor families —
took part in even fewer activities [3.1 and 3.2].
Local authorities and LOtC Centres
The second project, which was a collaborative project with CRG Research
Ltd (an independent research organisation), was funded as a result of
competitive tender by the then Department for Children, Schools and
Families in England. This project, undertaken in 2007-8, comprised a
mapping and feasibility study to chart the provision offered by Local
Authority outdoor education centres. Detailed information relating to
local authority provision and funding arrangements was gathered through
telephone interviews with 136 local authorities in England. This
information included the location, size and facilities of all English LA
outdoor education centres across the UK. Local Authorities were also asked
to provide details about past, current and future approaches to funding
these centres. Following the national survey, interviews were carried out
with 48 selected centre managers and 7 case study visits to provide more
in-depth information relating to issues such as running costs,
maintenance, management, staffing, educational programmes, user groups and
sustainability. From this mapping exercise a number of key outputs were
developed. These included: the first Geographical Information System of
English Local Authority outdoor education centres (identifying their
location, facilities and educational themes) to be used by policy-makers
and providers to better coordinate provision. Secondly, a typology of
funding models was developed to demonstrate how future funding of such
centres could become more sustainable during a period of financial
constraints and what kind of impact any changes in funding might have.
Finally, the study was able to report the varying levels of uncertainty
for future provision of these centres [3.3].
Once both studies were completed the data were combined for further
analysis that demonstrates the relationship between levels of local
authority support (through reports by schools and in the provision of
local authority outdoor education centres) and school-level provision of
learning outside the classroom and consequently the different levels of
learning opportunities for children depending on who they were, which
schools they attended and which local authorities they lived [3.4].
References to the research
[3.1] Power, S., Taylor, C., Jones, K. & Rees, G.
(2008) Out-of-school learning: variations
in provision and participation in secondary schools. Final report to
the Campaign For Real World Learning.
[3.2] Power, S., Taylor, C., Jones, K. & Rees, G.
(2009) Out-of-school learning: variations in provision and participation
in secondary schools, Research Papers in Education, 24 (4)
439-460. DOI 10.1080/02671520802584095
[3.3] CRG and Cardiff University (2008) Assessment of
Capacity and Viability of Local Authority Outdoor Education Centres.
Final Report to the Department for Children, Schools and Families (15th
[3.4] Taylor, C., Power, S. and Rees, G. (2010)
Out-of-School Learning: the uneven distribution of school provision and
local authority support, British Educational Research Journal, 36,
6, 1017- 1036.
O c t o b e r 2006 - April 2007 Provision and Participation in Out of
School Leaning Activities.
£40,000 Funded by the Real World Learning Campaign, a consortium of
organisations including the Field Studies Council, PGL, Royal Society for
the Protection of Birds and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. Awarded to:
Prof. C Taylor, Prof. S Power, Prof. G Rees.
N o v e m b e r 2007 - March 2008 Assessment of Capacity and
Viability of Local Authority Outdoor Education Centres. £62,000
Funded by the Department of Children, Schools and Families (with CRG
Research Ltd). Awarded to: Prof. C Taylor, Prof. S Power, Prof. G Rees
Details of the impact
The research was pivotal to the ongoing efforts of voluntary sector
organisations to lobby the government in order to raise the profile of
outdoor learning, to draw attention to the current crisis and to persuade
the government to put in place protocols and policies to stop the decline
in such activities. The impact can be traced through from evidence given
to House of Commons Select Committee, the raising of the debate in the
House of Commons through an Early Day motion, to support for the
establishment of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom which
provides an important forum for the dissemination of policy and practice
relating to outdoor education.
Evidence to Parliament
In 2010, the English Outdoor Council launched its campaign Time for
change in outdoor learning: Hard evidence on the value of the outdoors
and a challenge to deliver fair access for all [5.1]. The report
draws heavily on the evidence of inequalities which our research revealed,
"This disparity of opportunity is described in detail by Professor Power
et al. Their research shows a clear link between the level of provision of
outdoor education and the proportion of pupils in the school who are
eligible for free school meals - the greater the level of disadvantage,
the less provision."
Our research was also cited in evidence given to the House of Commons
Children, Schools and Families Select Committee in the 2009-2010 session.
The Select Committee report [5.2] refers to our finding that `the higher
the levels of pupils eligible for Free School Meals, the lower the number
of trips and visits offered (at Key Stage 3)'. In the oral evidence given
to the Select Committee, the Chair of the English Outdoor Council claims:
"What I can do is quote some research by Professor Sally Power from
Cardiff University. She identified that there are winners and losers in
this...The smaller the school, the lower the number of visits that go on.
In those schools, the proportion of youngsters taking up the opportunity
to go on a visit is lower. Professor Power identifies a whole group of
others who also don't get that opportunity: Traveller children, Turkish
students, Sikh girls, asylum seekers and Asian girls, particularly from a
Our research has also been drawn on in submissions from the Field Studies
Council and the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom to the House of
Commons Science and Technology Committee's enquiry into Practical
experiments in school science lessons and science field trips [5.3].
At this hearing, the evidence from our research is used to underpin the
Schools Minister's assertion that schools should use the Pupil Premium as
a means of helping disadvantaged children afford field trips to
`experience the natural environment' and to argue that the Government
needs to offer explicit guidance to headteachers and governors to ensure
Bringing the debate to the House of Commons
This research has contributed to the raising of debate on this issue and
the development of policy proposals on LOtC. In our research we emphasised
the importance of making LOtC an entitlement for all pupils rather
than an optional extra. The issue of entitlement then appears in the
recommendation by the House of Commons Children, Schools and Families
Select Committee. In the same Report that cites our work, the Select
Committee proposed that "There should be an individual entitlement within
the National Curriculum to at least one out of school visit a term" [5.2].
Not long afterwards, on the 25th May 2010, the English Outdoor Council
generated an Early Day Motion (tabled by Bob Russell, LibDem MP,
Colchester) which called on the "Government to find a way of making this a
reality for all young people, including those who need financial support"
[5.4]. Although very few Early Day Motions go to full debate or lead to
new legislation, these formal motions are an important vehicle in drawing
MPs' attention to issues.
The research has informed efforts to protect and expand LOtC
opportunities. The importance of the viability of Local Authority outdoor
education was featured in an HM Government e-petition calling to save
these centres, "Our petition calls for the government to protect outdoor
education centres from imminent closure by creating a fixed-term
transition fund and providing business training which will enable Local
Authority Centres to survive long enough to become self-sufficient" —
issues that were highlighted in the DCSF study [5.5]. The petition
received over 6,000 signatures.
Contributing to the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom
Both projects provided evidence to support the establishment of the
Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (CLOtC) [5.6]. The Council,
established in 2009, is a registered charity to champion learning outside
the classroom. Echoing our own recommendations, its main aim is that `that
EVERY child should be given the opportunity to experience life and lessons
beyond the classroom walls' (http://www.lotc.org.uk/about/
). The Council provides an important link between the academic research
and LOtC professionals and its membership includes over 100 educational
and environmental organisation. For example, the findings from the DCSF
study were presented at the first National Conference for the CLOtC in
2009 - where the interactive GIS was exhibited. Since then CLOtC has grown
to become the leading voice in promoting learning outside the classroom
through accrediting activities, offering training courses and
disseminating the latest research evidence and policy initiatives.
Sources to corroborate the impact
[5.1] English Outdoor Council (2010) Time For Change In
Outdoor Learning: Hard evidence on the value of the outdoors and a
challenge to deliver fair access to all.
Direct references to the research can be found on page 5 and relate to the
finding that schools with higher levels of free school meal (FSM)
eligibility have lower levels of out-of-school learning provision.
[5.2] House of Commons Children, Schools and Families Committee, Transforming
Outside the Classroom, Sixth Report of Session 2009-10, HC418:
London: The Stationery Office.
Citations which draw directly from our research can be found on pages 13
and Ev12. The evidence cited relates not only to the problem of FSM
eligibility, but also to the fact that rural schools offer fewer LOtC
opportunities and that those offered by schools in less affluent areas
tend to be more local and vocational in orientation. Other findings from
the research which are also cited as evidence to the Committee relate to
the difficulties which some minority ethic children face in participating
on LOtC opportunities and the extent to which schools use participation as
a means to reward and punish behaviour.
[5.3] House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Practical
experiments in school science lessons and science field trips, Ninth
Report of Session 2010-12, Volume II: Oral and written evidence, HC
1060-II: London: The Stationery Office.
Again, this report refers directly to our research. References to our
research can be found on pages Ev58 and Ev61 and relate to the finding
that not only do schools with higher proportions of FSM offer fewer field
trips, but that these experiences tend to be narrower and less inspiring.
[5.4] Details of this motion designed to trigger the debate are as
follows: Early day motion 24, Learning Outside The Classroom, Session:
2010-12, Date tabled: 25.05.201
The motion makes reference the principal finding of our research — namely
that significant inequalities in access to LOtC endure despite the
[5.5] This e-petition Save Our Outdoor Education Centres
(Closing Date: 23/01/2013) was informed by our research on the
vulnerability of provision and participation. It highlights the precarious
situation of many outdoor education centres and the implications of their
closure for children from disadvantaged homes in particular. Details of
the number of signatories can be found at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/26661
[5.6] Contact: The Chair of Council for Learning Outside the
Classroom. Will confirm the significance of our research for the campaigns
and the establishment of the Council.