8. The Place of Outdoor Education in Promoting Personal Development

Background The Outdoor Education practitioners at one secondary school use a model developed by ‘Outwardbound Metro’ to deliver courses aimed at helping pupils who are failing to progress in the mainstream environment Each of these five day courses (every 8 days for 5 weeks) focus on a specific area of need. One was aimed at Sl pupils who needed: • nurture and encouragement; • to develop life skills; • to build self knowledge; • to exp/ore future options.Seven pupils were chosen from those referred. The last day of the course was spent reviewing and reflecting on their experiences and producing a presentation for friends, teachers and parents. Solution Focused Approach By setting on appropriate level of challenge for each pupil during activities, individuals can achieve real success. These successes would be transferred to other settings through review and reflection. Using this method, barriers to learning can be addressed and overcome. Strategies Key success factors were agreed as: • ownership – activities were chosen by the pupils (from a menu). They were helped to develop a “group culture” and their own rules; • individual aims were needs led and were changed as individual needs became clearer, eg the ability to manage appropriate behaviour; • allowing the group time to get things wrong and /earn from if which required extra staff to give individual attention, time outs and 1: 1 challenges; • the challenge of telling their story to others was an ever present challenge that helped to focus their minds and efforts. Individualised Planning The structure of these groups is critical to success; input from all areas is used to put together a productive balance of pupils. Using a variety of activities (climbing, initiative problems, hill walking and presentations) allows individuals to explore and address challenges that are relevant to them. A Flexible Curriculum in Line with Curriculum for Excellence The choice to remove pupils from lessons is one which requires much consideration and is not without its critics. However the skills that these courses developed helped the young people to re-engage with formal learning. This effort invested in Sl can pay long term benefits. This flexible approach required dedicated staff with additional skills. They needed the time to ‘tailor make’ each course to respond to individual needs, and to disseminate the learning afterwards. Partnership Working Pupils were referred by Guidance and Support staff. Additional support was offered by Support staff due to the high level of need in this group. Support staff on each day came from across the school; Pupil Support staff, Community Link worker and the Depute, Support. The young people presented their achievements to Support and Class teachers, family and senior pupils. Successful Outcomes included:
  • stronger and more positive relationships among group members and staff. Staff commented on their greater understanding of individual pupils;
  • sharing of information across whole school staff via a final report emailed out within days of the course ending. This included an outline of the course and observations of each pupil;
  • development of skills/experience among all the staff involved;
  • pupils in genera/ developed their self knowledge, confidence and communication skills.  Individually they often achieved self-defined goals, such as making friends, trying harder, thinking about others, etc;
  • parents, staff and peers shared in the enjoyment/success/fun experienced throughout the course.