Outdoor Education fits within the aims of the CPA and its skills-based curriculum. Our department offers a varied, kinaesthetic approach to learning. Lessons aim to include exposure to risk and experiential learning opportunities to appreciate the consequences of actions and decisions made by students. Developing independent learners is a key aim of our department.
Behaviour and safety are crucial for a successful Outdoor Education department. Due to the nature of the activities, behaviour and safety are taken extremely seriously and are always the priority of any lesson. A safe learning environment together with appropriate behaviour allows learning to take place for all. To achieve this, our department complete thorough risk assessments for all activities, venues and individual students where necessary. Risk assessments are completed by teaching staff as well as Learning Coaches, to enable all staff to have an understanding of what is required to facilitate a safe learning environment. Behaviour is monitored using the school’s RAISE positive behaviour system, with students earning points for appropriate and respectful behaviour. Our department implement alternative activities or in some situations a ban from participation, if negative behaviour jeopardises the safety of an individual or the group.
At key stage 3 students are given a variety of activities to experience and enjoy, all with the common aim of developing teamwork, social skills and raising self-esteem. We offer the JASS Award scheme at key stage 3, allowing students to progress and achieve within their core entitlement to sporting activity.
At key stage 4 students continue to access a variety of adventurous activities, with an increased amount of time spent on improving their own abilities and acquiring new skills. Achievement is shown by working towards a Level 2 Award/Certificate in Sports Studies, along with various skills-based awards.
Both key stages are tied together by strong communication within the department. Although our aims vary depending on key stage/ability/groups, we remain a single department with overarching aims to develop each student to the best of our ability.
All lessons are taught by a qualified teacher (QTS) with a strong background in Outdoor Education. This is evidenced by National Governing Body coaching awards, leadership certifications and experience in the delivery of adventurous activities within mainstream and special school settings. Lessons are supported by a strong team of Learning Coaches who are experienced and competent in a variety of activities. Our Learning Coaches are invaluable in being able to offer differentiation within each activity and meet our student’s needs.
Outdoor Education provides opportunities for learning to take place, away from the confines of a classroom, where many of our students have already experienced failure. The unfamiliar environment forces students to consider consequences and choice of actions within a ‘real life’ setting. This enables staff to identify certain character traits and behaviours which may hinder a student’s progress. Our subject area allows for many therapeutic benefits as a direct result of the environment, activity and teaching methods employed.
We meet as a department every morning after staff briefing, at the end of each day and also once a week during a protected department meeting. Communication is vital for our department to function successfully, largely due to the variety of activities and logistics of providing such opportunities to our students.
Outdoor Education is assessed at Key Stage 3 using Core Tasks related to National Curriculum levels. This is because our KS3 students are on a short term referral with us, and so we need to be able to report clearly to their home schools in a format that is understood by all. At Key Stage 4, students study the Cambridge National Level 2 Award/Certificate in Sports Studies and Outdoor Education. Assessment is ongoing throughout the course, with a final exam in the summer of year 11.
We use departmental lesson observations, external observations from SLT and DfE, as well as regular discussions around approaches to learning and engagement. Our department have recently received two Ofsted observations, both times receiving a grading of Good or better.
As a school, all of our students complete the WRAT (Wide Range Achievement Test) upon induction. This equates to an age ability level for reading, comprehension, spelling and maths. Given their starting point with education so far, our students are then baseline tested within PE and Outdoor Education to provide a true reflection of their abilities. Many of our students have missed a considerable amount of education whilst with their home schools, and so it is crucial that they are given an equal start with us at the CPA, with realistic targets to work towards and achieve. This does not mean that we are not aspirational as a department and indeed as a school, but we do have to consider that approximately 85% of our students start with us below the age of where they should be. It is still an expectation that students make good progress, 2 sub-levels across each year and aiming to achieve or better their CPA target – which is based upon their WRAT score, FFTD, prior levels, behaviour and attendance report.
All students at the CPA complete the Strength & Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), which is repeated throughout the year to show progress in behavioural and emotional state. This is very important for our students given their starting points with us and their challenging and often hectic home life situations. Outdoor Education plays a vital role in therapeutic interventions for students, as it allows students to be removed from the traditional classroom setting and provide opportunities for discovery and self-led learning. An example of this is the current Forest School Programme with a group of year 11 students who refuse to attend their alternative provision placements.