What can be done to enhance the provision of Learning in Natural Environments (LiNE) for school children in York LEA?
• The Natural Connections Demonstration Project (Waite et al, 2016) was a 4-year study involving 40,000 school children in 125 schools in the south-west of England. It looked at the benefits to children and teachers, as well as the barriers to outdoor education.
• The study was confined to a specific area of England and had the benefit of a ‘structure’ of support at different levels across the area
• With the completion of the largest study of its kind in England, it is an opportune time to consider the findings of the report in relation to local schools and assess what can be done to improve the provision of LiNE for school children in York
1. To compare some of the findings of the Natural Connections Demonstration Project to the schools in the City of York LEA
2. To assess the barriers to outdoor education and offer practical solutions to schools specifically in York
1. Assess the current level of outdoor education across York’s schools (52 primary, 9 secondary, 3 special and 6 independent schools)
2. Compare case studies of schools with low and high levels of outdoor education to see how outdoor education provision in York can be improved
3. Discover what the barriers (real and perceived) and solutions are to teachers conducting more or better quality outdoor education
This research will utilise the case study approach to bring attention to critical incidents, present exemplars, or innovative practice (Newby, 2014, p69). It is well defined within the constructs of City of York Council LEA and grounded in ‘lived reality’ (Hodkinson & Hodkinson, 2001). This approach is useful when intensive, holistic, in-depth investigation is required (Swanborn 2010) whereby the researcher will be in the role of an external analyst (Newby, 2014, p67). It could be argued that with the inclusion of some quantitative data then it will be a mixed approach although it is recognised that research in the real world does not always fall into the ideological frameworks of a theoretical research approach (Arthur et al (eds) 2012).
The data gathering methods (see below) have an emphasis on qualitative data with a proportion of quantitative data to provide a contextual backdrop. The methods will be similar to those used in parts of the Natural Connections Demonstration Project.
1. Gather baseline statistics from City of York Council Education Directorate to indicate the current level of outdoor education by individual schools (Quantitative data)
2. Gather data from individual schools of the number of lessons taught outside the classroom each year (Quantitative data) and perform a simple website analysis for references to LiNE (Quantitative)
3. Case studies of schools with high levels of outdoor education provision. Gather personal experiences in outdoor education and any barriers or solutions to using it. These will include:
a. Focus groups (thematically analysed qualitative data)
b. Interviewing individual ‘key’ teachers within the school (qualitative data)
It is hoped that this research will produce the following tangible outputs;
1. Visual representation of the various types of outdoor education and the type which is the focus of this research
2. Exemplar case studies from schools which are the best for outdoor education in York
3. Suggestions for schools and teachers to help improve the provision of outdoor education in York
4. A ‘directory’ of local sources and types of information to help schools to implement better outdoor education