ESP Play, an esteemed playground design, manufacturing, and installation company based in the UK, is on a noble quest to transform outdoor learning and play in schools across England and Wales. As recent research reveals a concerning decline in outdoor learning among primary school pupils in Scotland, ESP Play firmly advocates for the incorporation of outdoor classrooms into the school curriculum, recognising its significance in fostering the comprehensive development of young learners.
A survey conducted by the University of Stirling has brought to light a drastic reduction in the time primary school pupils spend engaged in outdoor learning, with only seven minutes ‘per pupil per week’ in 2022, compared to 30 minutes in 2014. While Covid restrictions have contributed to this decline, the report also points to the lack of confidence among educators in providing outdoor learning opportunities. However, the early years have witnessed a positive increase in outdoor play and learning, with 39% of the day dedicated to such activities, compared to 36% in the 2014 survey.
ESP Play recognises the indispensable role of outdoor learning and play in nurturing the physical and mental well-being of children, while concurrently supporting their educational growth. The company firmly advocates for outdoor classrooms to be an intrinsic part of the curriculum in England and Wales, much like in Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence.
Andrew Wood, the Managing Director of ESP Play, expressed concern, saying, “We have witnessed the benefits of outdoor learning for many years, and it is disheartening to observe a decline in outdoor play and learning opportunities.” He emphasised ESP Play’s passion for transforming outdoor spaces into interactive and engaging learning environments. In doing so, they believe that outdoor classrooms not only establish a deeper connection with nature but also enhance the learning experience, making it more interdisciplinary, enjoyable, and meaningful for students.
Supporting ESP Play’s vision, Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services, and Skills, encourages schools to explicitly reference outdoor learning in their self-evaluation and during inspection visits, thereby emphasising its significance in a broad and balanced curriculum.
Aligned with the University of Stirling’s research, ESP Play urges educational institutions in England and Wales to invest in professional development for teachers to bolster their confidence in providing outdoor learning opportunities. Such initiatives can enable learners to explore various curriculum areas, including mathematics, science, and literacy, while addressing pressing topics such as sustainability, biodiversity loss, and climate change.
Andrew Wood further emphasised, “We stand ready to work in close collaboration with schools nationwide to create outdoor spaces that nurture active, confident, healthy, and determined young individuals. By utilising the school playground as a context for genuine educational improvements, we can elevate standards and create a positive impact on children’s lives.”
As a prominent industry leader, ESP Play is resolute in its advocacy for the integration of outdoor learning into the school curriculum, championing the well-being and educational outcomes of young people throughout the country.
For more information about ESP Play and their innovative outdoor playground solutions, please visit www.espplay.co.uk.