Below are excerpts from the "key messages" section of the following report. The investigation involved case studies and survey data from 6 sites in the U.K.
The full report can be downloaded from the bottom of this page.
6.2 Key Messages for Schools
There is much that staff and students in other secondary schools might learn from the evidence and insights generated by this programme. In particular, we would emphasise that:
. the nature and quality of the outdoor school environment matters deeply to students of the secondary school age
. the case for improving secondary school grounds can be linked with a range of educational, social, pedagogical, aesthetic, environmental and community arguments
. there are different ways of approaching school grounds improvement, and it is worth considering whether a school council/steering group model, a curriculum-based model or some combination of these is a helpful way forward
. the process of helping to plan and implement school ground improvements can be deeply beneficial in terms of student learning and self-confidence, and staff development
. the process of student involvement in the process needs careful facilitation, in terms of ensuring sufficient pace, connections between consultation and implementation, communication between active participants and the wider student body and appropriate roles for landscape architects or designers
. developments in the outdoor school environment can lead to improved facilities and new activities within the grounds, positive changes in students’ attitudes and new resources for curriculum teaching and learning
. making physical changes in the grounds does not necessarily engender greater use of the grounds for teaching and learning, especially if tacit views of learning as an indoor activity are not challenged
. developments in the grounds need to take careful account of potential challenges such as not meeting the needs of all students, or paying insufficient attention to the question of longer-term maintenance or the threat of vandalism.
6.3 Key Messages for School Ground Professionals
School staff involved in this programme acknowledged the important role that external professionals can play in supporting particular aspects of the ground improvement process. The following ideas from this research seem particularly relevant to the work of school grounds professionals:
. secondary schooling is a sector with deep-seated and wide-ranging needs with respect to improving the quality and use of the outdoor environment
. secondary schools present distinct opportunities and challenges for school grounds improvement, and approaches, examples and skills from other contexts (such as primary schools) may not be easily transferable
. schools often need to call on the skills of external specialists such as designers, landscape architects and school ground organisations, but want individuals who will ‘respect students’ ideas’, ‘foster honest dialogue’ and ‘be realistic about what they can do’
. particular care needs to be taken in relation to the extent to which students’ ideas are reflected in the eventual changes, students are involved in the process of making (as well as planning) changes in the grounds, and staff (and therefore curriculum subjects) and parents (and therefore local community) are part of the picture
. consideration needs to be given to ways in which the research (as well as the action) dimensions of secondary school grounds projects can be supported, valued and disseminated.
In conclusion, this programme can be seen as providing the early beginnings of research evidence on addressing the widespread neglect of outdoor spaces within the secondary school sector. Its findings need to be seen as ideas to use, apply, test and develop in other contexts within and possibly beyond the UK.