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Harrogate school launches video blog to champion the benefits of outdoor lessons

Ashville College in Harrogate has launched a new video blog to underpin the importance of learning outside the classroom environment.

Harrogate school launches video blog to champion the benefits of outdoor lessons

A Harrogate school is launching a new video blog to underpin the importance of learning outside the traditional classroom environment.

Paul Oldham arrived at Harrogate’s Ashville College in September 2022 with a brief to make lessons taught in the school’s dedicated outdoor learning area less of a “bolt-on thing” and more an integral part of the curriculum.

He hopes a new ‘vlog’ - posted every fortnight - will further inspire and excite young minds, as well as encourage Ashville pupils to embrace learning, not just through books and white boards but also through outdoor experience and sensory stimulation.

The short films highlight just how teaching outdoors can be made relevant, even to more academic subjects such as maths, history or English.

Mr Oldham said:

“So much is said about today’s children being the ones to change the world, but it’s not that easy.

“It will take meaningful educational experiences to help children understand what’s happening in their world and help them make informed choices about how they want to live their lives.

“It can be daunting, doing something radically different when you’re so accustomed to being in a classroom, but, often, all it takes is a small tweak. There’s so much research proving the benefits of learning outside, no matter your age.”

Although city-born himself, Paul Oldham discovered his own love for nature and the environment during his years training to be a teacher in Yorkshire over 30 years ago.

He’s since worked as a department head, deputy head teacher and as an inspector for the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) – experiences which he feels have given him insight into best practice and how outdoor learning can be woven into everyday teaching.

He said:

“The techniques used in outdoor learning open up how we think.

"I’m keen to show children that, when something isn’t working the way it should, not to see it as ‘wrong’, but as an opportunity to solve problems, use their powers of reasoning and become more resilient.”

The school’s drive to integrate outdoor teaching also coincides with a steady recovery from the restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, which underlined the importance of the outside world and the positive impact it can have on mental health and wellbeing.

Pupils are also encouraged to participate in a range of co-curricular activities designed to enhance life skills and therefore their ability to adapt, either in further education or the world of work.

Head of Ashville College, Rhiannon Wilkinson, said:

“One of our core objectives is a commitment to ensuring our pupils are future-ready when they leave us.

“Our Co-Curricular Programme opens doors to enjoyable experiences such as drama, sports and games, and the Skills Builder programme helps with confidence, eloquence, leadership and teamwork.

“However, Paul Oldham’s work integrating the fantastic outdoor learning facility into our teaching, further enhances what we can offer as a school.

“Some pupils shine in the classroom but our experience shows a significant number may come into their own in an outdoor setting, which can open up other opportunities or more hands-on methods of learning.

“His enthusiasm and expertise have already proved invaluable and we certainly hope the new vlog will help to promote the advantages of our outdoor learning centre both on and off our Harrogate campus.”

Read more local stories from Your Harrogate here.

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