This paper draws on three related empirical studies in the South West of England: a survey of outdoor experiential learning opportunities, examining attitudes, practice and aspirations of practitioners and children in educational and care settings for children between 211 years within a rural county; a follow-up series of five case studies; and an ongoing ESRC funded study of outdoor learning practice across the transition between Foundation Stage and Year 1 in two city-based schools. It charts the journey of outdoor learning from early years to primary practice in England and indicates the navigational tools used by practitioners and the possibly rocky terrain that still lies ahead. The source and nature of values in outdoor learning, the decline in outdoor learning opportunities, the emphasis placed by staff on obligations and expectations of national guidance vis à vis their own personal beliefs and other barriers to outdoor learning are considered. It also reflects upon the changing landscape of the primary curriculum in England in the wake of recent reviews and a subsequent change in government that has decided to leave the National Curriculum and testing regime as it is. The author argues that multiple benefits for children of outdoor learning should encourage policy-makers and practitioners to reverse the decline in provision and ensure that children maintain opportunities to learn outside the classroom throughout their primary schooling.
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