Teacher confidence: How to develop outdoor learning at your school

If you want to develop outdoor learning, you need to build teacher confidence. Here’s how to do it.

If you’re a forward-thinking educator, we’re sure you’re keen to develop outdoor learning at your school. After all, the benefits of taking the curriculum outdoors are (nearly) endless! However, if you’re trying to boost your outdoor provision without addressing teacher confidence, you won’t get very far. 

Teacher confidence is the biggest challenge to outdoor learning in schools, but it’s often overshadowed by the more obvious culprits — health and safety fears; a lack of outdoor space; and, of course, the weather. 

A little bit of sunshine goes a long way. However, if you want to develop outdoor learning for the long term, teacher confidence is key. 

We’ve unravelled why teacher confidence is integral to outdoor learning. Now, let’s discuss how you can develop outdoor learning at your school by giving teachers the confidence boost they need.  

A teacher confidently instructing his pupils in a leafy outdoor classroom.

5 ways to build teacher confidence at your school 

1. Take a whole school approach

Many of the barriers to teacher confidence in outdoor learning stem from a fear of reprimand — from both senior leadership and parents. 

Due to pervasive myths about taking the classroom outdoors, there’s a widely-held belief that outdoor learning isn’t worthwhile. ‘it’s just glorified playtime’; ‘there are too many health and safety risks’; ‘it’s a distraction from the curriculum’; ‘it’s too expensive’. 

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth! The benefits of outdoor learning are proven and, if teachers feel supported in taking lessons outdoors, we’re confident you’ll see them. 

If you’re a member of the senior leadership team, you can eliminate the barriers to teacher confidence by taking a whole school approach to outdoor learning. Can you integrate outdoor learning into the curriculum? Perhaps improve your outdoor space to create a better environment for learning? Could you incorporate managed risk into school policy, working with parents to reassure them on health and safety? 

People thrive when they feel supported. If teachers feel like they are ‘in it’ with everyone else, they will feel more confident to take the curriculum outdoors. 


2. Expand skills and knowledge through training

Often, a lack of confidence comes from not really understanding what you should (or shouldn’t!) be doing. Learning — and putting our learning into action — helps us feel more confident about our ability to manage situations, roles, and tasks. With respect to this issue, there is no substitute for high-quality training. 

A core focus of any training programme should be instilling in educators a sense of independence and ownership. When the course is over and the professionals have gone home, educators should feel empowered to take the classroom outdoors safe in the knowledge that they have the skills to back them up. 

At Learning through Landscapes, we offer a range of in-person outdoor learning training courses for early years settings, primary schools, and secondary schools. Our Whole School Approach course, for example, takes a focussed approach to raising attainment through outdoor learning over the course of the entire academic year. 

Importantly, you don’t have to spend much on training to see results. If budget is an issue, our online training for outdoor learning offers a more affordable alternative to in-person training. Of course, you could always apply for a Local School Nature Grant, too! 

Happy children running across a field as they smile towards the camera

3. Improve your school grounds

It’s only natural that teachers will feel more confident taking their lessons outdoors if your school grounds are functional and fit for purpose. 

School grounds are vital spaces that can  and should  enhance childhood development in a magnitude of ways. While not all children have access to a nearby outdoor space, almost every child has access to school grounds. Therefore, they should be up to scratch. 

Thankfully, schools don’t need to spend a fortune to create a stimulating, safe, and secure environment for outdoor learning. There are many affordable ways to develop your school grounds, and we’ve collated an extensive collection of school grounds resources to help you. 

However, if you’re looking to transform your school grounds into an inspirational outdoor learning space, we’d be more than happy to guide you through every step of the process during an advisory visit. 


4. Get the gear

Equipment can have an enormous impact on a teacher’s confidence as an outdoor learning educator. Having the right gear for the job will enable staff to do more with ease — something that busy teachers always need a helping hand with.  

Outdoor learning equipment can include anything from waterproofs and wellies to mud kitchens and climbing apparatus  items that will enrich the pupils’ experience and make teachers feel prepared for the task at hand. 

Again, you don’t have to spend much to make a big difference. In fact, through our Local School Nature Grants programme, we’re offering £500 of outdoor learning and play equipment to schools and early years settings — plus, free outdoor learning training for your staff! 

Remember, bad weather shouldn’t stop you going outside! Wet weather gear and ground cover kits — both available through Local School Nature Grants — will go a long way to making outdoor learning more enjoyable for both pupils and teachers. Suddenly, a rainy day becomes a learning opportunity! 


5. Let them play!

Sometimes the answer is simple. Giving pupils the chance to play and we mean really play is a great way to remind staff across the school that children are pretty resilient. They fall down, they get back up and, in doing so, they become more aware of their boundaries and limitations. 

Seeing the enormous benefits of outdoor play for pupils’ independence and self-confidence should encourage teachers more and more to step outside. After all, confidence is contagious! 

If you aren’t sure where to start, we have a huge selection of (free!) outdoor play activities on our website. Alternatively, if you really want to transform school break times, consider our Playtime Revolution training.

A happy, confident teacher showing his pupils an insect in a jar in a grassy field

Next steps

We can’t overstate the importance of teacher confidence when taking the curriculum outdoors. If you’re serious about developing your outdoor learning provision, don’t let it hold you back.

For more outdoor learning support, take a look at our school stage hubs for early yearsprimary, and secondary where you’ll find everything you need to get into the outdoor classroom. Sign up to our newsletter for the latest outdoor learning news and opportunities, or pick up a copy of our book for the ‘essential guide to teaching and learning outdoors’. 


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A teacher confidently guiding her young pupils through still life art in an outdoor classroomA young child examining flowers in an outdoor classroom.