Taking Excellence Outdoors

Simon Beames, Hamish Ross, Matthew Atencio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scotland’s new Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) appears to support learning outside the classroom but there remains no statutory requirement for Scottish pupils to learn outdoors during their school careers. Commentators have asserted the apparently strong resonance between CfE and outdoor learning but there has been little explanatory argument to support this. This paper argues that the variable provision of school organised outdoor learning in Scotland is the result of, among other things, the perceived high cost and perceived lack of curricular relevance of such learning. We go on to show how the combination of CfE and a particular kind of outdoor learning pedagogy might tackle these problems. The pedagogy is cross-curricular and place-based; we illustrate it
with a case study of a low cost programme that involves pupils planning and undertaking journeys from their school grounds as a means of learning about socio-cultural and geophysical elements of their local landscape. In considering curricular relevance, we show that a historical emphasis on disciplinary subject content is one significant barrier to such outdoor learning. Curriculum for Excellence challenges this emphasis and could legitimise the kinds of outdoor learning we describe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-45
JournalScottish Educational Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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