Over the past decade, the Scottish Government and other national organisations have produced a wide range of publications which can help schools and early years and childcare settings develop their outdoor learning and play provision. Below is the collection I have gathered in an approximate timeline.
- Many other documents exist prior to 2007 that refer to outdoor learning in various guises. I feel that Taking Learning Outdoors is a defining point within Curriculum for Excellence. It was the catalyst of what has emerged since there. It is also rare in that it provides a definition of outdoor learning.
- There may be other documents which are also worthy of inclusion in the list below which I have forgotten about. Please let me know of any inadvertent omissions
- Nationally in Scotland, outdoor learning is one component of Learning for Sustainability. I’ve only included some links to key documents as otherwise it’s all overwhelming.
- Education Scotland have a summary outdoor learning resources. They also have a Learning for Sustainability summary list. As outdoor play is not really a focus in the Education Scotland link, the best place to check on these publications is the fantastic Play Scotland website. If you want to access some outdoor learning webinars from Education Scotland – have a look at the collection I’ve put together.
- The links are provided in good faith. If they no longer work, please let me know.
Taking Learning Outdoors makes the connections between Curriculum for Excellence and outdoor learning explicit and provides the rationale for many of the publications in years to come.
There are two documents within the Early Years Framework. This is the 10-year strategy published by the Scottish Government in early 2009. This is the first reference to Forest Schools and nature kindergartens in a national document that I can find.
Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning is the statement of expectations about outdoor learning. It takes a marked step forward because it advocates:
- Frequent, regular and progressive outdoor experiences
- That outdoor learning is the responsibility of all staff, not an outdoor learning coordinator or keen individual
- That partnership working is necessary to provide the breadth and depth of outdoor experiences
Back in 2010 I blogged in more detail about this document.
CfE Factfile – Outdoor Learning. This was produced by Learning and Teaching Scotland in May 2011. Aside from the links and references, it’s commentary remains valid. Originally it was aimed at parents and carers.
Education Scotland (2010) Support for Professional Development in Outdoor Learning
This is a series of documents, one for each curriculum area which suggests which experiences and outcomes must be taught outside and which are flexible about where they can be achieved. They are now dated especially in regard to digital technologies as they were written prior to iPads coming on the market. This was my first national piece of work!
Outdoor Learning – Practical Guidance for teachers and practitioners in Scotland (2011): This is the “how” document that was written to provide Scottish educators with suggestions and advice about learning outdoors. It provides research snippets and training activities as well. It is the first time free play is specifically referred to within education and recognition that outdoor play is an integral part of any school’s approach to learning outside. More background information can be found here.
North Lanark have adapted and refreshed one section relating outdoor learning to Getting It Right for Every Child into a poster. which can be accessed here.
Building your Curriculum: Outside and In (2011). This is an annex to the practical guidance document. It was created to help schools and centres think about where they are in terms of embedding outdoor learning and where they need to be. On the second page there’s a useful reflection tool.
One Planet Working Group (2012) Learning for Sustainability Report
This is the original document which makes recommendations about Learning for Sustainability. These were accepted by the Scottish Government almost in full. It unites global citizenship, outdoor learning and education for sustainable development into one coherent, whole school approach. All GTCS registered teachers must actively embrace and promote the principles and practices of sustainability in all aspects of their work.
Scottish Government (2103) The Play Strategy. There are two parts to the Play Strategy – Our Vision and Our Action Plan. Both documents cite the need for children and young people to be able to have daily free play opportunities in natural spaces.
Education Scotland (2015) How Good is Our School (4th Ed)? Whilst not specific to outdoor learning and play, there are 15 references to these and learning for sustainability. There are two early years documents which have similarities: How Good is Your Early Learning and Childcare? and Building the Ambition.
Care Inspectorate (2016) My World Outdoors This document shares good practice and sets out the expectations of the Care Inspectorate with regard to play and learning wholly or partially outdoors.
Vision 2030+ is the report about progress made in implementing the recommendations around Learning for Sustainabilty. It’s part celebration, part reflection, part forward thinking.
Inspiring Scotland (2016) Loose Parts Play: A Toolkit. Practical guide to developing loose parts play. This has since been revised in 2019.
The Scottish Government (2017) Space to Grow is timely design guidance for early learning and childcare settings and out of school care settings. It has a good emphasis and set of questions for consideration of outdoor as well as indoor environments.
The Scottish Government (2017) A Blueprint for 2020: The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland: Quality Action Plan. This document sets out a key aim to develop guidance for establishing outdoor nurseries.
Inspiring Scotland (2018) Scotland’s National Outdoor Play and Learning Position Statement This document is ratified by many organisations within Scotland that recognise the need for all children to have the right to play and learn outdoors.
The Scottish Government (2018) Out to Play: Practical Guidance for Creating Outdoor Play Experiences in Early Learning and Childcare This is the outdoor guidance mentioned in the previous document. It is for a broader range of provision and applicable to all ELCs as it contains guidance on a range of matters, not least everyone’s obligations under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. In 2021, three further sections were added:
Education Scotland (2020) Realising the Ambition: Being Me This is not specifically about outdoor provision. However, it is a significant document in that it is the first of its kind that truly integrates indoor and outdoor early years provision in a holistic way. There is clear recognition of the needs of children to spend significant amounts of time outside, particularly in nature and this is fantastic and welcoming sign of a real culture shift in early years education.
Policy Scotland (2020) Outdoor Learning Briefing Paper was published just after the lifting of the first Covid Lockdown.
Scottish Government (2020) Educational Outcomes of Learning for Sustainability: Literature Review This is a welcome summary which explores the impact of Learning for Sustainability. It frequently references the need for outdoor learning to be essential to the process.
The Scottish Government (2021) Going Out There. This is the national guidance about off-site excursions. Every local authority will have their own guidance which must be followed by local authority run settings. It does get updated via the website so keep checking on a regular basis. The Scottish Advisory Panel for Outdoor Education (SAPOE) and HSE also have input.
Care Inspectorate (2021) A Quality Framework for Daycare of Children, Childminding and School-Aged Childcare
This document references the need to have quality outdoor experiences and environments where children can freely play and learn.