Positive Outcomes from 7 year UK Outdoor Education Study


Outdoor Ed study with 60 schools tracks benefits post course and over time

Those working in Outdoor Education often lament the lack of concrete evidence that attests to the benefits of outdoor educational programs.

This Outdoor Ed Study by Learning Away, released in 2015, may go some way to providing you with the outcomes you need to champion outdoor education.

Sponsored by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation with the final report produced by York Consulting, the study was undertaken from 2008 to 2015 with 60 partner schools. Because of this they were able to capture long-term benefits of residential programs – by that they mean school trips with at least one overnight stay.

Outdoor Ed Study Components

Student surveys
11,461 surveys were completed (5,821 pre-residential surveys, 4,652 post-residential surveys and 988 long-term follow-up surveys) from 53 schools.

Parent surveys
718 parent surveys were completed. The vast majority (635) were from parents of primary-aged children.

Staff surveys
285 pre-residential and 254 post-residential surveys were completed by staff. A further 51 staff completed a final staff survey to gather views of the overall impact of the programme, both on individual members of staff and their school.
32 staff completed student impact surveys, highlighting impact on individual students.

Focus groups
63 student focus groups involving 398 students across 27 schools (19 primary, seven secondary and one special school)
40 staff focus groups involving 192 staff across 37 schools (26 primary, eight secondary and three special schools).

Study Findings

The 18 page study provided quantitative and qualitative information on the impacts of Residential Programs on:

  • Relationships
  • Resilience, Self-confidence and Wellbeing#
  • Engagement with Learning
  • Achievement
  • Knowledge, Skills and Understanding
  • Cohesion
  • Transition
  • Pedagogical Skills Development (of staff)

# For example: prior to attending the residential, only 40% of secondary students felt they could be a role model to others. Post residential more than two thirds (67%) of secondary students felt that the residential had made them realise they could be a role model to others

Suggest you read the outdoor ed study report yourself to see the percentage gains in certain areas.

What Makes Them Work

  • The time, space and intensity of the residential experience
  • Residentials were a leveller
  • Relationships developed through sense of community/living together
  • Challenging activities and opportunities to experience success
  • New ways of learning/ownership of, and engagement with learning:

What is Best Practice

  • Providing progressive residentials
  • Providing residentials that are embedded within existing programmes of delivery, i.e. are integrated with the curriculum and closely linked to classroom activities
  • Providing residentials that are designed and led by students
  • Providing new and memorable experiences


The key conclusion:

Learning Away has shown that a residential learning experience provides opportunities, benefits and impacts that cannot be achieved in any other educational context or setting.

Throughout the evaluation process, impacts on relationships (both student-student and staff-student) and on students’ confidence were strongly and consistently demonstrated. The strength of relationships developed was significant and often unexpected. There was also strong evidence that impacts in these areas led to positive outcomes in terms of students’ engagement with, and progress in, their learning, as well as their self-belief and expectation that they would make progress and succeed.

Outdoor Education Trips / Camps benefit results in other subjects

There was also evidence that the residentials impacted on pupils’ progress and achievement, in terms of improvement in pupils’ literacy scores pre and post residential. Staff noted an impact on low and average achievers and boys’ literacy scores in particular.

Outdoor Education Trips work best when normal classroom teacher is involved

The evidence shows the benefits of students going away with staff who teach them, in terms of maintaining these improved relationships back in school, as well as providing opportunities to build on and reinforce learning.

Key Recommendations

The impact is greater when outdoor education programs are fully integrated with a school’s curriculum and ethos. Schools should try to provide a wide range of residential experiences integrated with other class-based and learning outside the classroom activities (through themes/projects/ subjects).
Outdoor Education programs/ overnight camps / residentials have greater longer-term benefits when the learning is embedded and reinforced on the return to school, especially in terms of achievement, attainment and engagement. Schools should, therefore, ensure that this is part of the residential planning process.

Full Report HERE: