Scottish Education Secretary welcomes growth in outdoor learning

Number of Scottish pupils gaining John Muir Award doubles in five years through Curriculum for Excellence

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The John Muir Trust has welcomed new figures which show that its environmental engagement scheme is becoming ever more popular in Scottish schools. 

During the last academic year (2016-17) the number of school students and teachers achieving a John Muir Award certificate rose to 16,500 – the highest level ever. This compares to just over 8000 in 2011-2012, the year before the Trust mapped how the John Muir Award can help to deliver Scottish Curriculum Experiences and Outcomes. Over that five-year period, a total of 68,500 pupils have achieved a John Muir Award - an average of 360 every school week.

The then Education Minister Mike Russell launched Curriculum for Excellence and the John Muir Award in 2012 - a resource to support outdoor learning in schools.  The document has recently been updated to reflect current educational priorities such as attainment, Learning for Sustainability and health & wellbeing. It showcases the benefits of enjoyable, challenging learning in natural spaces, and the contribution this makes to raising attainment for all.

Over these five years, the Trust has maintained a strong focus on inclusion, with more than one in five Awards achieved by pupils experiencing some form of disadvantage, whether on the basis of ethnicity, health, literacy, economic poverty or disability. 

The Trust also highlighted the widening geographical spread of the John Muir Award, which is now delivered in over 40 per cent of Scotland’s secondary schools, across all 32 council areas.

Cabinet Secretary for Education John Swinney said: “I am very pleased to see this growth in pupils working to achieve a John Muir Award in schools. Its popularity, especially with pupils living in deprived areas, indicates that the Award is aiding improvements in literacy, numeracy, physical and mental health.”

“Through Learning for Sustainability pupils have an entitlement that includes outdoor learning and daily contact with nature. It is therefore reassuring to hear that outdoor learning is increasingly embedded within our schools, helping children and young people stay connected with the natural world.”

Rebecca Logsdon, the John Muir Trust’s Scotland Education Manager, said: “We’re delighted that we’ve been able to contribute to the diversity of teaching and learning in Scotland’s schools. The John Muir Award provides a well-established framework that encourages teachers to make learning outdoors part of the school timetable, and contributes to the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Professional Recognition in Outdoor Learning.

“As well as making national progress, we are also pleased at the deepening commitment of individual schools and local authorities to get young people involved with nature and the outdoors. In East Ayrshire, for example, we have a partnership with the council, which includes a funded full-time post dedicated to raising attainment through use of the John Muir Award in schools.

“We appreciate the efforts of all those who are delivering this progress in schools, including teachers, youth workers and community learning support workers. And we’d like to thank Scottish Natural Heritage and other partners for their support.”

The John Muir Award Scotland Education Report 2016-17, which includes details of Award activity broken down by local authority area, is available on request from: Rebecca@johnmuiraward.org.

Emma Smith Gairloch High School

Images courtesy of Emma Smith, Gairloch High School