Once the four pilot schools were identified as Carmarthenshire’s first Outdoor Schools I met with the Headteachers of each of them to go over them what is expected of them as an Outdoor School and how to make a start on the road to becoming ambassadors for the initiative in Carmarthenshire.
The four schools that became our pilot group were involved in the development of early plans to launch the initiative in the county and showed a commitment to taking their learning outdoors by, for example, hosting whole school INSET days on the subject. I felt it was also important to work with schools where it was clear that the Headteacher was fully on board as we are attempting to implement a whole school ethos.
We decided our next step would be to meet with Kevin Phelps, the Head at Tavernspite Primary School and co-founder of Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools. Kevin’s insight into developing the scheme and implementing it in a school proved very useful to the teachers and his enthusiasm and clarity on the importance of taking learning outdoors was invaluable.
He highlighted some important points such as how impressed Estyn were by the work done at Tavernspite and how the initiative is in line with the findings of the recent review into Education in Wales by Professor Graham Donaldson.
We were also given opportunity to see what makes Tavernspite Primary School an exemplar site for outdoor learning. As soon as you enter the school you can see how they qualify: from the pictures lining the walls to the fantastic and obviously well used outdoor learning spaces within the school grounds. We were also impressed by the ease with which a group of Foundation Phase pupils prepared for and moved outside for a short outdoor activity.
We agreed at the end of the visit to meet again after half term to discuss how to audit within each school to have a record of a base line in different areas before beginning the initiative giving us something to compare to in the future and hopefully evidence improvements across the schools.