In an exciting new development, we have joined forces with the Devonshire Educational Trust to appoint an Outdoor Education Officer for the iconic Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire’s Peak District.
In 2015 we hosted a fact-finding visit from Lord Burlington, a trustee of DET. This was followed by a personal invitation from the Duke of Devonshire for us to visit Chatsworth, pictured, to see their outdoor educational opportunities.
They are so impressed with ECT that they wish to replicate our model of outdoor learning. ECT and the Devonshire Educational Trust are working together to appoint this post. The new recruit will start early next year as a full member of our education team, but based at Chatsworth.
Each year hundreds of schools visit our estates. Now we have started taking our expertise out to schools – for example, Wootton-by-Woodstock Primary School in Oxfordshire. This small village school has little outdoor space of its own, but has the use of a large meadow nearby.
Every Monday throughout September and October, Education Officers visited the school, to lead sessions with all three classes at their ‘Meadow School’, and to train the teachers.
Headteacher Valerie Lucas said: “Some members of staff have had their eyes opened as to what can be accomplished out of doors. It made them think about how the external environment can extend learning in the classroom.”
This brings me to a third strand of our outreach work – educating the educators. Increasingly we are passing on our skills and experience to more and more teachers through Forest School Leader Training and whole-school INSET training sessions.
All this seems a logical continuum and expansion of our education work, which has taken us from 12,000 young visitors in 2010 to nearly 32,000 in the past year.
Wouldn’t it be marvellous if we reached the stage where every child in the UK has an entitlement to learn outdoors – and for their teachers, that outdoor learning becomes an everyday part of their job?
A warm ECT welcome to Sue
Sue lives in Hatherop, Gloucestershire, and has been a teacher at Hatherop Castle School for over 20 years, where she taught reception and Year 1 children. She got to know the Trust and its work while bringing her classes to Forest School sessions.
“It’s just so inspiring to see the enthusiasm of the children – even ones who seem reluctant when they appear in the morning,” she said. “By the end of the session, they’re beaming and it’s been a great experience for them.”