Argyll & Bute OWL Group (formerly North & West Argyll) was set up in 2004 and consists of members from the educational community as well as representatives from Forestry Commission, local organisations such as Stramash and independant outdoor practitioners. The group meets quarterly and has successfully secured funding to run a number of projects supporting the training and provision of outdoor learning and Forest School across Argyll.
Outdoor learning and Forest School is now recognised as an important tool in supporting the delivery of Curriculum for Excellence. The group secured funding in 2006 to run Forest School Practitioner and Assistant training for over 20 individuals. This was followed up by a pilot project in 2010 where two local primary schools took part in Forest School programmes, delivered by those trained during the 2006 course.
The Forestry for People (F4P) Challenge Fund provided a significant funding pot for the group to support the delivery of 22 outdoor learning projects and 7 Forest School programmes across Argyll in 2011/12. With the help of FEI and Public Health Network funding it also subsidised the delivery of another Level 3 Forest School Practitioner course for 12 participants, and the purchase of a variety of tools and materials to support the delivery of Forest School in the region.
There was a need to consolidate and share the experience gained through these projects to sustain and develop outdoor learning across the region in the future. The FEI Partnership Fund provided funding to run two networking events in 2012/13 for teachers and early years practitioners to gain new ideas and inspiration to take learning outdoors, as well as the chance to network with others and share experiences. The events also provided the opportunity to raise the group’s profile and encourage new members to join.
in 2013, the group secured funding to survey all schools across Argyll to find out what outdoor learning they were currently providing, and what support they needed to take this forward. This feedback was used to put together ideas for future projects and funding support.
The group's latest 'Taking Learning Outdoors' programme supported 5 schools across the region who had done little or no outdoor learning. Teachers from these schools took part in two training days and had four days of support back in their own schools from Outdoor Practitioners. The schools were asked to use this support to help plan, deliver and evaluate outdoor learning with their own classes and use this experience to support the wider school community to take learning outdoors forward. The funding for this programme also allowed the group to run a networking event in Sept 2015, open to all schools & early years settings from across the region. The event showcased the Taking Learning Outdoors programme, offered workshops for participants and was a celebration of 10 years of the Argyll Group running.