Q3. Do pupils have access to outdoor environments and how are they used for teaching science and maths?

Why this is important

Outdoor environments are an important resource and are mentioned explicitly in the non-statutory notes and guidance of the new National Curriculum for science. They can help pupils recognise the real-world applications of what they are studying and aid their understanding of scientific and mathematical concepts.

  • Ofsted’s ‘Maintaining Curiosity’ report cites how the use of outdoor environments in an extracurricular setting gives pupils the opportunity to see science in action.98
  • A report from King’s College London indicated that after learning in natural environments, pupils demonstrate greater motivation to learn science and also perform better in maths and reading.99


Benchmarks have been produced by Science Community Representing Education (SCORE), listing the habitats to which access is required for the teaching of the new primary science curriculum. The benchmarks give the following information:

  • a description of the habitat access required
  • an explanation of how each habitat can be used and its curriculum links.

A report by SCORE found on average, the outdoor environments mentioned in these benchmarks were accessible to at least 75% of the schools surveyed. 96% of respondents reported easy access to at least one form of outside learning environment.100

Ideas for improvement

For governors:

You can ask subject leaders whether they have undertaken efforts to identify potential local environments which could be used to further pupils’ learning experiences and help them to see the real-world application of their work.

You can ensure that subject leaders and teachers are aware of various continuing professional development (CPD) resources that are available to support the teaching of science and maths in outdoor environments.

There are many organisations interested in outdoor learning that offer resources for teachers:

  • The Association for Science Learning’s Outdoor Science Working Group lists resources which may be useful to teachers when thinking about outdoor education, such as the 2006 ‘Out-of-Classroom Learning’ booklet published by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, as part of the Real World Learning Partnership.101
  • Learning through Landscapes provides ideas, resources and advice on outdoor learning activities to enhance children’s learning outside of the classroom.

Other examples of providers of outdoor education and outdoor education resources include: Forest Schools, the Wildlife Trusts, the Royal Horticultural Society, and the Field Studies Council.

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