What is outside? The early years foundation stage in England: outdoor facilities, organisation and staff attitudes

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Bilton, Helen (2014)

The purpose of this paper is to report on the facilities available, organisation of, and staff attitudes to early years outdoor education from schools within the south east of England, focusing on provision for children aged three to five. One component of the successful education of the child involves providing an ‘environment for learning’, including the facilities, layout and routines. This paper presents findings concerning the type and variety of facilities available outside; the various styles of organisation of the space; staff attitudes about: their roles, their aims for the environment, children’s behaviour and learning, and perceived drawbacks to practice. This paper draws on empirical data collected from schools within the University of Reading partnership. The findings suggest that although all early years settings must adhere to the statutory framework there are a range of facilities available, and there are a number of ways this environment is organised. Further there appears to be uncertainty about the adult role outside and the aims for activities. The conclusions drawn indicate that staff do not appear to be linking their aims for outdoor education to the facilities provided or to their actions outside. This means there is not a clear link between what staff provide outside and the declared ambitions for learning. This study is important as all educators need to be certain about their aims for education to ensure best outcomes for children. The implications of these findings for early years teachers are that they need to be able to articulate their aims for outdoor education and to provide the correct facilities to achieve these aims. Finally this study was undertaken to raise debate, posit questions and to ascertain the parameters for further research about the early years outdoor environment.
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