Outdoor Learning and Covid 19

Outdoor Learning and Covid 19 Image

This is a short update on outdoor learning and moving forwards from Covid 19. We have been asked about OWL Scotland’s policies on moving forward after lockdown and would like to reiterate that groups should follow Scottish Government guidance at all times.

A lot of work has been and is going on to get coherency and consistency in the outdoor learning world for schools and how to use the school playground and local greenspace for learning and to consider the role of outdoor learning in moving forward out of lockdown.

NNOL are collecting information about skills, opportunities and ideas which will be passed to the Scottish Government to facilitate the process. Please ask as many of your members as possible to participate.


The Scottish Government’s framework for decision making – routemap outlines the phases we will move through as we move out of lockdown.

Phase 1 includes the re-opening of fully outdoor early years settings and

 guidance for opening up Early Years outdoor settings has been released -


Phase 1 also includes restarting forestry work.

The Forestry Sector Restart and Resilience Plan has been published and can be found here


And the safety guidance for Forestry work is available here


Below are 2 general things of interest:

The following is an extract from the Covid 19 Re-opening Schools Guide which can be seen in full by following the link.


1. Practical approaches to physical distancing – use of outdoor spaces

In parallel with the indoor environment, education authorities and schools should consider appropriate use of the outdoor environment to enrich the learning experiences of children and ensure as many children as possible can benefit from formal education at school. Evidence suggests that outdoor environments can limit transmission, as well as more easily allowing for appropriate physical distancing between children and staff.

Effective outdoor learning can be delivered across many subject areas and the 3-18 learner journey, whilst enabling benefits in relation to learner engagement, health and wellbeing and educational attainment. Informal outdoor classrooms set within the natural environment can often be effective spaces for learning. However, where some level of shelter is required the periodic use of the school building should be considered. With any repurposing of space, particularly in respect of any greater use of outdoor spaces for learning, schools should ensure that pupils with complex needs or disabilities are not disadvantaged

If outdoor equipment is being used, schools should ensure that multiple groups do not use it simultaneously, as well as considering appropriate cleaning between groups of children using it (see hygiene measures).

How learning and teaching is adapted for an outdoor environment should also be considered. The Outdoor Learning Directory provides links to a variety of resources that can be filtered by subject area and curriculum level.


2. And in the determining capacity section

Approaches may include:

use of flexible accommodation (e.g. mobile classrooms, geodomes) and temporary shelters to help maximise and enhance outdoor learning opportunities (e.g. polytunnels and canopies). There are many instances where these types of spaces have been used very positively across the learning estate and could be utilised as case studies to help inform local solutions.

use of local outdoor spaces. Education practitioners may be able to draw on contacts within their establishments or wider clusters to identify appropriate space. The Outdoor Learning Directory features a map of relevant spaces, and the Going Out There and Out to Play guidance documents provide comprehensive practical and legal advice for taking learning outdoors and offsite. Practitioners may also wish to contact their education authority outdoor learning lead through the Scottish Advisory Panel for Outdoor Education for further advice and support.

innovative use of the public, private or 3rd sector estate to increase the number of children and young people who can attend schools. For example, there could be opportunities to use council office space, libraries, leisure centres or cultural venues to increase the effective size of the school.

And Juliet Robertson has updated her very useful blog post on hand hygiene  https://creativestarlearning.co.uk/early-years-outdoors/hand-hygiene-outdoors/