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The Importance of Outdoor Play

Monday 19 June 2017

As our Prep School children take to their new and exciting adventure playground, it’s a good time to reflect on the importance of outdoor learning – whether that be in the school grounds or further afield on school trips and excursions.

The benefits of learning outdoors have long been recognised, from health and wellbeing, sociability and confidence, through to creativity and collaboration to name just a few. These benefits extend well beyond the Early and Prep School years into Senior School and beyond.

The advent of the digital age, while offering wonderful opportunities for learning, appears to have resulted in a reduction of physical activity, as children spend longer periods at screens. This is evidenced by the results of a recent study, published in November 2016 by a global alliance of health experts, which placed England, Scotland and Wales as worst in the world for children’s physical activity and fitness, with a grade F.

According to the report, just 15 per cent of girls and 22 per cent of boys aged 11 to 15 in England manage the Government’s daily physical activity recommendation of one hour per day. In 2014, England was given an overall grade of C-D. Of nine different measures used to rank activity levels and government strategies, four have worsened while the rest have not changed, reducing the overall grade now to D minus. Latest figures also show that childhood obesity has reached record levels, with one in 10 children reported to be obese when they start primary school, and one in five reaching that level by the end of it.

Taking all of this this into account, packing regular physical exercise into the school day is critical. But outdoor learning goes well beyond the resilience, balance and strength that sports and PE deliver, also extending academic studies, including English, the arts and languages, maths, science and PSHEE.

At St Joseph’s College, outdoor learning fits perfectly with our culture, ethos and values, placing students’ wellbeing at the heart of everything we do. As well as regular sports lessons that include cricket, football, hockey, netball, squash, tennis and rugby, we are fortunate to have safe and beautiful grounds that extend across 60 acres to include sports facilities, horticultural, woodland and wilderness areas. Outdoor learning is tied in to the national curriculum topics we cover each term. And we offer a wide range of extra curricular activities that extend outside the classroom, into our own grounds and beyond.

From awe and wonder tours and ‘walks and talks’ through to map making and orienteering on site, we also organise regular away days and longer excursions that include organised water sports, outward bound activities, skiing and more. These activities help our students to discover independence, physical agility, concentration skills, special awareness and initiative, all of which can be taken back into the classroom and used to help them to be their best.

The installation of our new adventure playground, which has been championed by our Prep School and partially funded by our PTA, is just one of the exciting developments within the College’s Development Plan, which includes extended sports facilities and a swimming pool.

Dr Martin Hine, Vice - Principal