Outdoor Education

– in the Scottish Parliament on 16th May 2017.

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Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-05008, in the name of Brian Whittle, on heritage and environmental conservation charities’ support for outdoor learning.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I know that you are keen, but you can stay seated just now. You are not on the starting blocks now. [



The debate will be concluded without any question being put. I ask members who wish to speak in the debate to press their request-to-speak button. I now call Brian Whittle to open the debate.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament acknowledges the work of various national conservation charities, including RSPB Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland, in the provision and promotion of outdoor education; believes that outdoor education should be seen as an important component of the curriculum, with meaningful benefits to both pupils' learning and their health; considers that sites such as Culzean Castle in South Ayrshire, which is run by the National Trust for Scotland, the RSPB’s Mersehead Reserve in Dumfries and Galloway, and the Dumfries House Estate in East Ayrshire endeavour to work with local schools to arrange visits to their sites, along with various educational activities; understands that many organisations have seen a marked decline in the number of pupils participating in recent years; believes that, while visits are often provided at little or no direct cost to schools, the cost of transport has become prohibitive as school budgets have been squeezed; notes the calls on schools across Scotland to consider making use of schools attainment funding to support greater use of outdoor education, and thanks RSPB Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland and other similar organisations for their commitment to supporting outdoor learning.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak once again on one of my favourite topics: the importance of outdoor learning. It takes many forms, from school trips to the great outdoors to developing vegetable patches in school grounds to coaching and participating in sports. There are many other examples but, in the short time that I have, I will pick just a few.

I happen to be the Marine Conservation Society’s parliamentary champion of the leatherback turtle, whose migratory path takes it from warmer climes to our shores. When I chatted to people from the Marine Conservation Society about that, I pointed out that that is actually geography. The turtles eat jellyfish and mistake plastic bags for food, which has been causing real problems in their population, although the advent of charging for carrier bags has drastically reduced the bags’ use. We can measure the impact on the leatherback turtle population by going to the shore and counting jellyfish or discarded plastic bags, which of course is numeracy. We can then go back to the classroom and plot that information on a graph, which is maths. That is on top of ecology and marine biology.

A similar story happens with the RSPB: the migration of birds is geography; the number of birds is numeracy; and the painting of the birds and the landscape is art as well as nature.

I had the pleasure today of meeting the scouts, who are great exponents of outdoor learning. The organisation is adapting to schools’ needs by holding beavers groups after school, at 3 pm, in areas where people find it challenging to get to a 6.30 pm meeting. Pupils are not expected to buy kit because that would be a barrier to participation; sweatshirts are now handed out to all pupils and collected at the end of the lesson.

The scouts even take members out on field trips to experience the great wilds of Scotland—if necessary, for free. They train the trainers, too. Young people learn skills such as planning, budgeting, leadership, team development, resilience, confidence and managing difficult situations. To me, that sounds much like middle management, and people pay a fortune to attain those skills.

In partnership with the Scottish Association for Mental Health, the scouts have designed a programme specifically to address the issue of young people who develop poor mental health. Members will not be surprised to hear that young people who have attended the scouts are 15 per cent less likely to suffer poor mental health in adulthood—and the cost of four years of scouting is only £550.

Dumfries house has developed classrooms for interactive lessons in subjects such as engineering. It gives children space in the gardens so that they can plant and grow their own produce, and then they learn to cook it.

I must give sport a mention. Sport teaches discipline, resilience, goal setting and confidence. We must not forget the constant learning that the coach does. Coaches learn short, medium and long-term planning skills. They are part coach, part parent and part psychologist. They not only deal with triumph and failure but help others deal with the same—and come back for more. They also get to sound much more intelligent than they look by learning to say things such as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation—our British Sign Language interpreter dealt with that fantastically.

I will share some of my outdoor learning experiences. Many years ago, I went on a weekend away to Glaisnock house to study O-level geology. We studied the Lugar sill, igneous intrusions, sedimentary rock layers in the Lugar mine, limestone pavements, clints and grykes—members should look them up on Google. During a discussion about fossils, the lecturer asked us what the first living thing on earth was. A student put their hand up and confidently declared that it was a brontosaurus. Every time I think about that, I picture a primordial earth with all the ingredients for life just waiting to be energised and then, all of a sudden—pouf!—a brontosaurus. That makes me laugh out loud every time.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Excuse me—I do not know how the BSL interpreter dealt with that bit.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

I know. I liked that, so I will do it again—pouf!

Because of the way my mind works, I often wondered who that brontosaurus talked to and what it ate.

I also remember some of us managing to lift a sleeping friend on his mattress out of our dormitory in the middle of the night and sliding him under a teacher’s bed. Now, that is a skill. We scuttled back to our dormitory to await the fallout. Some time later, amid shouting and screaming, our friend reappeared rather wide eyed and mad, with teachers in tow. We had to wash the minibus inside and out as punishment—but it was totally worth it.

Presiding Officer, I know that you are thinking that that was a bit of a strangled route to educational benefit, but the point is that that was a shared experience that I remember. Every time that I meet up with a friend from back then, it always comes up. We learned what we were supposed to learn in a real, live environment, but we also learned about interaction and camaraderie and made memories that will last a lifetime.

I do not necessarily advocate that children and young people should follow our lead, given some of our behaviour. However, they should get the opportunity to access learning in a variety of ways and create their own great memories of their schooldays. Changing venue can change people’s thought processes. Not every pupil is at their best learning in the classroom. If we expand the horizons of learning, bring learning to life and connect with real environments, new opportunities open up for pupils’ futures. If we offer only a narrow educational pathway, we will cater only for those for whom that pathway works. As Albert Einstein famously said: “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life thinking it is stupid.”

Elements of education and personal development—such as simple interaction, resilience, confidence, team development, focus, attention and problem solving—are crucial in the classroom, but they are far better learned outside the classroom.

If we are to properly tackle health inequality and the attainment gap, I strongly advocate ensuring that inequality in access to outdoor experiential learning is also tackled. Culzean country park, where history continues to be uncovered, has told me that the number of school pupils visiting the park has recently dropped from 30,000 to 11,000. The cause of that drop could be as simple as schools not being able to afford coach hire. Perhaps there is a suggestion there of a practical way in which the attainment fund can be used, especially if schools collaborate with one another. East Ayrshire Council has ensured that schools collaborate, and a proportion of the attainment fund is used to train trainers to deliver outdoor learning initiatives, so that sort of thing can be done.

I recognise that the Government has specifically given attainment fund money directly to headteachers, through the local authority conduit, to use as they see fit in addressing the attainment gap. It would therefore be churlish of me to suggest that the Government should become more prescriptive with regard to how the money is used. However, perhaps highlighting innovative ways of using the attainment fund or of effectively sharing good practice could inform headteachers of alternative ways in which they could decide to spend their school’s money. My concern is that, like sporting activity, outdoor experiential learning is becoming more and more a personal learning and development tool for those who have, at the exclusion of those who have not. The attainment fund is perhaps one way in which we can address that problem. Let us face it, all our children and young people deserve the opportunity to have their own brontosaurus story.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

I welcome this debate on the importance of outdoor education in the national curriculum and congratulate Brian Whittle on securing it, although it is disappointing to note that no Labour members are available to take part.

There is a world beyond the classroom, and outdoor learning is the gateway to that world. As you will know, Presiding Officer, taking the class outside can only be rewarding, because a child’s sense of discovery and curiosity is awakened by the natural world. Outside the classroom, children have a chance to guide their own learning and develop problem-solving skills in ways that are not possible in the confines of a school building. A sense of duty and responsibility to the planet is nurtured as children become more aware of the environment and sustainability. Learning outdoors also helps to improve health and wellbeing—a recent National Trust survey found that 80 per cent of the happiest people in the UK have a strong connection to the natural world. Therefore, if schools can foster that strong connection at a young age, so much the better.

My childhood on a remote hill farm environment on the moors and bogs between Barrhill and New Luce certainly fostered resilience. Being constantly encouraged to get out from under my mother’s feet at the age of nine or 10, and sometimes being a mile or two from home, in total isolation and occasionally in self-inflicted potentially dangerous situations, certainly developed in me a sense of danger, an awareness of risk and the ability to be sufficiently resourceful to deal with risk in the countryside.

It is disappointing to learn that opportunities for outdoor education are being stifled by the costs of transport and the squeezing of school budgets. That is especially concerning given that National Trust for Scotland sites such as Culzean castle and the RSPB’s Mersehead reserve offer such stimulating educational programmes at little or no direct cost. For example, in East Ayrshire, Dumfries house offers outdoor learning courses that support horticulture in the classroom and help with the development of a sustainable school garden. In the Pierburg building and Kauffman education gardens, schoolchildren are introduced to organic gardening, food production and how fresh produce links with a healthy diet. Given the invaluable programmes that are on offer across the country, all schools should be encouraged to use attainment funding to support outdoor education.

There is a solid case for making that happen, as there are well-defined links between access to outdoor education and improved attainment. The John Muir award is a very good example of that phenomenon. Four challenges lie at the heart of the award programme: schoolchildren are encouraged to discover a wild place; they then explore that wild place; they take actions to conserve that wild place; and, finally, they share their experiences of that wild place.

The John Muir award is delivered through more than 600 partner organisations, and more than 15,000 awards are achieved each year in Scotland. In a survey of organisations that deliver the programme, 73 per cent agreed that

“the John Muir Award helps the people we work with improve attainment.”

The survey also found that the award led to improvement in pupils’ self-motivation, self-confidence, self-esteem and sense of purpose.

The evidence is clear. Outdoor learning stimulates a child’s personal development and helps to improve attainment. As the great Scottish conservationist John Muir once wrote:

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

We must do everything in our power to broaden the horizons of schoolchildren in Scotland. Therefore, I have pleasure in supporting Brian Whittle’s motion.

Photo of Ross Greer Ross Greer Green

Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. It is almost a novelty, as a Green, to be selected this early in a debate.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I can drop you down the list if you wish.

Photo of Ross Greer Ross Greer Green

No—I am extremely grateful.

Photo of Ross Greer Ross Greer Green

My early selection is perhaps a reflection of how few members are in the chamber, as has been mentioned, which is unfortunate.

For most people, our lifestyles have become too sedentary. We spend too much time indoors, sitting down. Members of this Parliament will be familiar with that—although with one election following another this year, many people in politics are getting much more exercise than they would otherwise have chosen to get. Too often, that behaviour sets in at an early age. Children sit in school all day, they sit in front of the telly and they play inside. Technology makes it easier to experience the outside world without leaving the indoor one, and that is not really experience at all.

The importance of outdoor learning cannot be overestimated. Being outdoors and appreciating the natural environment is central to childhood development. Through outdoor learning, children learn to engage with their natural environment; they also learn about their heritage and improve their health. It involves discovering Scotland’s environment, our history and our culture. Right on our doorstep, we have Holyrood park, with its crags, its extinct volcano, the ruined chapel and its lochs. Historic Environment Scotland plays a key role in taking school classes to learn about the geography and the history of land use here, and conservation efforts.

In my region, there are many brilliant examples. As highlights, I suggest Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park and the brilliant RSPB reserve at Lochwinnoch, both of which have excellent education and outreach programmes that I have been able to experience at first hand. At Lochwinnoch, I was able to join staff and children in lighting a fire, building their own playground from fallen trees and spotting a variety of birds, insects and ground animals.

We must ensure that all children have such opportunities, and that requires taking a robust but realistic approach to risk. With proper supervision and instruction, it is fantastically valuable for children to set a fire, to use a knife and to take part in a range of activities that, too often, we would consider too dangerous or not age appropriate. Health and safety is essential, but that does not mean that we should restrict children’s ability to get to grips with the world around them. There is no substitute for that direct experience and all the benefits that it brings.

In Scotland, we are extraordinarily lucky to have such a beautiful natural environment and such a rich cultural heritage, which, as well as being available to those in more rural areas, are accessible from many of our towns and cities—although they would, of course, be more accessible if people had cheaper and more accessible public transport to get them there.

Through outdoor learning, children gain a better understanding of the natural environment that we live in and the importance of protecting it from human overconsumption, pollution and degradation. They learn to value and respect its intrinsic worth, rather than the financial worth that we are encouraged to assign to everything in our lives. However, outdoor learning not only allows people to gain a better understanding of Scotland’s natural environment and our heritage, but brings with it a host of health benefits, as it encourages children to develop more active and healthy lifestyles. Research has shown that outdoor learning is beneficial to mental health, in particular. We have heard in other debates about the problems that there are with child mental health in Scotland; children face long waits for services and some are not seen at all. Although I would not for a moment suggest that outdoor learning is in any way a substitute for proper mental health services, it is clear that we must adopt a holistic approach to improving mental health in Scotland, and that includes outdoor learning—the evidence for that is quite clear.

Despite the long history of outdoor learning in Scotland, there has been a decline in children participating in it. Curriculum for excellence emphasises it, but it is not being delivered consistently. It is often charities that deliver it. Too many local authorities have withdrawn from directly supporting it because they are under serious budget pressure, but with the support of charitable bodies and existing public environment agencies, the cost of supporting outdoor learning is not prohibitive. I hope that the Scottish Government and the new administrations in councils across the country will take that into consideration and will look at how they can support outdoor learning for every child in Scotland.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I am pleased to be able to support Brian Whittle’s motion on the heritage and environmental conservation charities’ contribution to outdoor learning in Scotland. I wanted to speak in the debate because it is about an issue that is close to my heart—especially as a former environment secretary. In that role, I came across many fantastic projects the length and breadth of Scotland, through which children were being introduced to Scotland’s amazing countryside and natural environment. Like Ross Greer, I want to ensure that central Government, as well as local government, non-governmental organisations, charities and everyone else who has a role to play, gets behind the massive potential of outdoor learning for Scotland’s children and future generations.

Brian Whittle started his speech by speaking of marine wildlife and the need to highlight to our younger people some of the issues that face it. That is something that I also support, especially as I am a newly appointed species champion for the minke whale. That is now on the record. I also want to use this opportunity to say that a week or two ago I had the privilege of speaking at the launch event for the visit to Scottish waters of the Greenpeace vessel Beluga II, which is going round Scotland’s coasts highlighting the blight to our natural environment that is caused by ocean plastics. That is becoming an increasingly serious issue, which our children in school projects and young people of all ages are taking a much closer interest in, as we parliamentarians should.

Recently I had discussions with academics who are looking very closely at some of the issues that we are discussing—in particular, Professor Pete Higgins, who is professor of outdoor and environmental education at the Moray house school of education at the University of Edinburgh, and his colleague Dr Beth Christie. For a number of years, they have not only served on ministerial working groups, but have been doing research into the benefits of outdoor education, particularly for our children. One of their recent literature reviews was called “The impact of outdoor learning experiences on attitudes to sustainability: a review of literature”, which picks up themes that members have made in the debate in that it states that the more outdoor education our children experience, the more they connect to our environment and environmental issues. Beth Christie said in the review that

“a central theme throughout many aspects of the literature has been the need to develop an empathy and ethic of care towards the environment. This is a crucial point as attitude and ultimately behaviour change stems from a connection to a place; in other words people will make the effort to love and care for something that they are positively connected to.”

That is one benefit of outdoor education: connecting young people with sustainability and the need to protect Scotland’s environments.

The other paper that I want to quote briefly, which relates to what John Scott spoke about, is called “The impact of outdoor learning experiences on attainment and behaviour in schools: A brief review of literature.” It, too, has some useful comments that I commend to the minister, and I hope that he will have a chance to look at it. The paper states that the “key finding” of the review is that with regard to

“increased attainment in terms of specific subject areas such as maths, English, reading, science and social studies, greater evidence exists to suggest that outdoor learning affords an integration of curricular content and global skill development.”

Outdoor education also contributes to attainment levels in our schools, which is another reason why we should get behind it.

I ask the Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Mark McDonald, who is closing the debate for the Government, to arrange a meeting with the two academics to whom I have referred, who are, I suggest, the foremost experts in outdoor education in Scotland. I am sure that he will find that very valuable.

In terms of local government supporting outdoor education, there are a number of social enterprises out there in Scotland doing fantastic work that require the support of local government and our new council administrations. I certainly hope that the new Moray Council administration will, once it is formed, provide such support. I hope in particular that it will support Wild Things! Environmental Education in Action, which is an award-winning environmental education charity in my constituency that has enabled more than 13,000 children, young people and adults to learn from and be inspired by their local natural environment and the wilderness regions of Scotland. Thankfully, Wild Things! has just been given £47,000 by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. The charity is based in Findhorn and works throughout Moray and beyond.

It is important that Moray Council continues to support organisations such as that and another organisation called Earthtime for All, which has been delivering projects in Moray and beyond for children aged from one to eight. The organisation runs an outdoor nursery that is based on the forest school principle.

Those organisations, which have appeared in relation to this agenda in the past few years, deserve support from central Government, but especially from local government and other funding organisations in Scotland. I urge the minister to visit my constituency to visit those two organisations when he gets the chance.

Outdoor education is the future of education in Scotland. We have to give it a central role in increasing attainment and promoting health and wellbeing—mental and physical—as other members have said.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You crammed in a lot of requests, invitations and information for the minister. I hope that he has taken a note.

Photo of Alexander Burnett Alexander Burnett Conservative

I note my declarations in the register of members’ interests, especially those in relation to the National Trust for Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates.

I congratulate my colleague Brian Whittle on lodging his motion. According to the director of the Swedish national centre for outdoor education,

“Studies show that if you alternate outdoor and indoor learning, and the teacher is prepared, you get good results.”

I was fortunate enough to spend most, if not all, of my childhood outdoors, and I continue to try to be a good example of the benefits of outdoor learning. I was fortunate to live on the doorstep of the National Trust for Scotland’s Crathes castle and I have very happy memories of playing in the woods and finding Hay’s lemonade bottles to recycle through the shop—a journey of forest management, conservation and the circular economy that was ingrained at a young age.

Crathes castle is now visited by over 7,000 children a year, which represents a huge increase on 35 years ago. It is important that we acknowledge the tireless work that the National Trust for Scotland does across Scotland. Its role has evolved over the past few decades and outdoor learning has become one of its main priorities, enabling it to teach future generations about Scotland and themselves. The community outreach programme supports groups from different social, financial and cultural backgrounds. In 2016, the beyond the gate section of the programme delivered over 2,000 hours of education to over 2,000 schoolchildren.

Young carers are also targeted, and the trust developed the counting stars programme to help those who are helping others. Over 25 per cent of young carers miss out on valuable school time and, as a result, do not get the qualifications that they need to get on in life. Thanks to the counting stars programme, many young carers are being given the tools to overcome those circumstances. The scheme enables them not only to get on, but to find employment, because many jobs require experience.

Such support is not limited to third sector organisations such as the National Trust for Scotland. Bodies such as Scottish Land & Estates similarly encourage their members to promote outdoor learning. An example is the imbewu Scotland programme—“imbewu” means “seed” in Zulu—which was a finalist in the helping it happen education awards. The project is aimed at 13 to 16-year-olds, many of whom live in urban areas and experience disadvantage or poverty of opportunity. It works with a range of partner estates to deliver a programme that educates young people about the value of, and opportunities for, employment in the rural sector.

All bodies, whether in the public, private or third sectors, should receive due recognition for the roles that they play in providing outdoor learning, and encouragement to do more. I gladly support the motion.

Photo of Mark McDonald Mark McDonald Scottish National Party

I welcome this evening’s debate, which was brought to the chamber by Brian Whittle. It provides an opportunity for the Government to restate its commitment to outdoor learning and acknowledge the great work that is being done by teachers, support staff and parents across the country. They, along with local organisations and charities and their staff and volunteers, are making sure that children and young people have tremendous opportunities to learn in the outdoors.

It is no accident that outdoor learning is a key component of curriculum for excellence. The flexibility that teachers have within CFE to provide alternatives to formal educational settings means that they can use their professional judgment and creativity to deliver lessons in a variety of settings, using purposeful play and other activities. By learning in outdoor environments, young people can benefit from meaningful, engaging opportunities to apply their skills and knowledge in a real-life context, and such interdisciplinary learning allows children’s learning experiences to be both broader and deeper.

The numerous benefits of well-constructed and planned outdoor learning have been well stated by members in the debate. It connects children and young people with the natural world, with our built heritage and with our culture and society. At the same time, it fosters a respect for and appreciation of the outdoors that can encourage lifelong involvement. It brings children and young people both challenge and enjoyment, motivating them to become successful learners and develop as healthy, confident, imaginative and responsible citizens.

There is growing evidence that increased access to the natural environment has a direct and positive impact on physical health and mental wellbeing. In addition to fresh air, exercise and stimulation, it can be instrumental in encouraging and promoting positive behavioural change.

We are lucky that, in Scotland, we have a uniquely rich and varied natural environment and centuries of social, cultural and economic heritage on which to draw. Today gives us all a welcome opportunity to recognise the great support that conservation charities, such as the National Trust for Scotland and RSPB Scotland—members have mentioned both—provide to schools that are looking for learning opportunities in beautiful and inspiring settings.

The Scottish Government continues to support access to our natural heritage through subsidy schemes such as the heritage travel subsidy grant, which is awarded by Education Scotland and administered by Historic Environment Scotland. That funding has enabled more than 30,000 pupils from almost 900 Scottish schools to get out and about and to explore and learn from our heritage sites across the country. Members who have spoken about what they see as a lack of opportunity may want to explore the fund’s potential to support the work of schools in their area.

The Government provides a range of support to the third sector, community groups and the youth work sector to promote outdoor learning. Our children and young people early intervention fund provides core and project funding for youth work organisations, including those that provide outdoor learning opportunities through the John Muir award and the Duke of Edinburgh award.

There are countless examples across the country of schools engaging with—and in—their local communities to provide stimulating outdoor learning experiences for young people. However, it is also important that we recognise that learners do not have to go far to benefit from the rich learning experiences that the outdoors can offer.

I will touch on a few of the contributions that have been made this evening. Like you, Presiding Officer, I will be interested to see how Brian Whittle’s onomatopoeia is dealt with in the

Official Report


I was interested in Brian Whittle’s comments on the exclusion factor as it affects those who are in are less-advantaged communities. It is important that we look at the work that is being done in parts of Scotland where partnership working is often a key element. I have mentioned before in the chamber an example that I have seen in my constituency—the Fersands & Fountain Community Project, which deals with children in deprived communities that do not have access to high-quality outdoor learning spaces. It partnered up with the University of Aberdeen to make use of the university’s botanic gardens as an opportunity for those children to have a quality outdoor learning environment. Providing opportunities is often about such partnership working.

Ross Greer made a point about risk. I have said previously at a number of events centred on our play agenda that there is a big difference between being risk aware and being risk averse. I want to see more of the former and a bit less of the latter. That chimes with Mr Greer’s point. We have to ensure that risk is managed and mitigated, but that does not mean that it must be 100 per cent avoided for children to gain a proper and true appreciation of the benefits of learning in outdoor environments.

Photo of Edward Mountain Edward Mountain Conservative

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests.

Scottish Natural Heritage funds the salmon in the classroom project. The children are allowed to take salmon eggs and look after them before replanting them in the wild before they hatch. Will the minister clarify whether such Government funding will continue in its present form?

Photo of Mark McDonald Mark McDonald Scottish National Party

I was going to talk a little bit about Scottish Natural Heritage and the development of “Our Natural Health: An Action Plan”, which aims to join up a range of work on encouraging greater understanding of the natural environment. I freely admit that I was not aware of the specific example that the member cited until he raised it. I am happy to look into it further and to see what role that project plays. As I have mentioned, it may be that part of the work depends on partnership approaches between SNH and specific local authorities. In all such debates, as Mr Whittle pointed out, we must maintain the balance between the Government taking a prescriptive, central approach and allowing people the freedom and flexibility at a local level to determine the best interventions to support young people’s learning in those areas.

The pupil equity fund that the Government has put in place is about ensuring that headteachers are able, in terms of both resource and flexibility, to determine the best approaches, for them, at the local level. I expect that, as we see work developing in the application of the pupil equity fund, we will see a number of schools operating outdoor learning approaches as part of that work.

Richard Lochhead has done his best to fill up my diary by taking me to Moray on a number of occasions. I have already accepted an invitation from him to visit one of the organisations that he mentioned, and I am happy to explore how we can use the work of the academics he cited to drive some of our outdoor learning agenda. In my recent statement to Parliament on the expansion of early learning and childcare, I spoke about our agenda to drive forward positive approaches to outdoor learning and to use opportunities in the early learning setting, and that flows through into educational approaches in the later years.

I highlight that, as well as looking at how outdoor learning can be promoted in our schools, we must look at how families can make better use of opportunities to get outdoors and get their children interested in the outdoor environment, building on the approaches in school. If children’s exposure to outdoor learning in school is not further developed in the home environment, we miss a trick, so I am keen to look at how we can encourage families to be more active and more outdoor focused in our approach to such things as the play agenda.

The points that Brian Whittle has raised chime heavily with the agenda that the Government is seeking to drive forward in partnership with local authorities and other providers, and I thank him again for bringing the debate to the chamber.

Meeting closed at 18:11.