The New Forest partnership consisted of six small village primary schools spread across a wide geographical area, but all within or on the outskirts of the New Forest. The staff involved shared a common interest in developing more sustainable ways of existing within their communities, and of growing leaders in sustainability within their schools. Their location within the New Forest, and within striking distance of two outdoor centres with a common interest in sustainability, gave them the ideal opportunity to pursue this interest.
The New Forest partnership developed a progressive residential model, starting with an extended day in Year 1, a two-night residential in Year 3/4 and a four-night residential in Year 5/6 (all schools taught two year levels within one class). In the second year of its Learning Away programme, they organised a cross-partnership CPD day in order to:
- give staff a chance to share their learning about Learning Away residentials
- explore the partnership’s central theme of sustainability
- provide opportunities to learn new skills related to sustainability
- discuss how these new skills might be used in residential settings with children.
This case study will give an outline of the day in the hope that it will give others starting points for ideas for their own CPD. The first three sessions described below took place in the morning and the final two in the afternoon.
Session One: Setting the context
Whilst staff from the six schools had heard the term ‘Learning Away’, the partnership coordinator wanted to make the project and its aims clear to all school staff. She felt that staff needed to be more aware of the size and scope of Learning Away in particular, and its aims in terms of evaluation. With these aims in mind, the PHF Learning Away advisor for the partnership gave a presentation to set the New Forest programme in the context of the national programme.
The coordinator also felt that the local context would also be helpful, so the Outdoor Education Adviser for Hampshire spoke about how the partnership’s programme fitted in with other programmes happening within the New Forest. This local context was particularly helpful in enabling the schools to think about where their Learning Away programme might fit in once the project came to an end.
Session Two: Sharing experiences
Allowing staff from similar phase groups to share their experiences was a key element of the day, and one that required some pre-planning and preparation by staff. The partnership coordinator developed a briefing note that was shared with each school and gave details about what they expected from each staff group for this session. One person from each school was asked to prepare a short presentation as a stimulus for group discussion. You can read this briefing note in full here.
Session Three: Progression post-primary school
The coordinators in each school were keen for staff to have an idea of the possibilities for their children continuing work within the theme of sustainability once they left primary school. They approached Ringwood Academy, one of the large secondary schools in the area that many of their pupils would go on to, to talk about their work within the theme of sustainability. Ringwood has a history of working sustainably, has its own Eco Code and three green flag eco-awards. Many of their students work actively within the school and their local communities to promote sustainability, and a selection of these students from across the school were asked to come and present their work to the New Forest Learning Away partnership. Hearing from students, particularly from all ages (including some who had come from the partnership primary schools) really brought alive both the students’ work and their progression in the area of sustainability.
Session Four: Developing new skills
Seven ninety-minute workshops, all but one with a sustainability theme, were organised and run by local specialists employed for the afternoon. Workshop titles were:
- Building fires safely
- Willow weaving
- Natural den building
- Understanding your school’s energy
- Outdoor science
- The New Forest as a teaching resource
- Storytelling and puppeteering skills
The partnership coordinator produced an outline for the workshop sessions, which was sent to each school prior to the day in order for staff to sign up and numbers to be fairly even across the workshops. The outline document can be seen here.
Session Five: Taking ideas forward
The final, plenary, session was designed for staff to return from workshops and work within their school groups to share what they had learned, discuss how their learning might impact on future residentials, and record their initial ideas so that they would inform future planning once back in school.
The partnership coordinator was very pleased with how the day went, and felt that the format worked well. Having a practical session was key to giving staff new ideas and energy in terms of their own practice as well as that of each school and the partnership as a whole – there was a real buzz in the room and around the school site throughout the day.