Showcasing the RSPB’s Covid-Compliant outdoor learning delivery

 An ability to take lessons outside is a vital tool for schools to help deliver their whole curriculum whilst ensuring students keep active, stay healthy and keep learning. As many Education departments recommend considering which lessons or classroom activities could take place outdoors, we are here, when you are ready, to support your pupils by helping enable high quality learning experiences in school grounds.

Rosalind Allen, who manages the RSPB’s Schools Outreach Programme, explains how we’ve adapted our delivery to keep everyone safe and provides some insight from our trial of how these measures work in practice.  We also hear from a headteacher who was part of this trial.

Last school year, 99% of teachers whose classes had Schools Outreach sessions rated them as excellent or good for content, relevance to the curriculum and ability to engage the children.  These curriculum-linked, risk assessed sessions are now FREE and this UK-wide project also has the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge and is registered as Covid-Secure.

The RSPB has designed and tested new Covid-compliant delivery methods, and the results of our trial show that our Covid-compliant measures are effective.  The RSPB is very much looking forward to resuming the sessions and enabling more children to take part in quality outdoor learning in their school grounds.

Feedback from all sessions delivered as part of the trial shows that our methods give teachers and session leaders reassurance regarding minimising the transmission of Covid-19, whilst also enabling pupils to have an engaging outdoor learning experience in their school grounds. All the teachers rated the sessions excellent (90%) or good for booking system, session content, curriculum relevance, ability to engage the children and Covid-compliance measures. Key features of the RSPB’s Covid-compliant delivery methods are:

  • Outdoor delivery only
  • 2 metre distancing of RSPB personnel from school staff and pupils
  • Clean kit for every group and individual child
  • Regular handwashing

In addition, RSPB personnel will minimise entry to your building and will only enter for agreed purposes.  The RSPB also has a Covid-Outbreak Procedure and will comply with any additional school measures. 

Carrbridge Primary School was one of the schools involved in the trialling of our Covid-compliant delivery methods.  The RSPB worked with all year groups in November and Head Teacher, Mrs Clare Lake said,

We are so lucky to have Sarah from the RSPB come into school to work with our pupils. It is always a highlight when a visit is arranged and something the pupils and staff really look forward to too. Sessions are always well planned and organised and always relate to what’s happening in the school curriculum plus help us work towards our Wild Challenge awards.”


Excite pupils through discovery and learning in your school grounds

Our Schools Outreach sessions are designed to help the children discover and learn about nature, so the move to being fully outdoors is perfectly in keeping with their content.  Our activities are ideal at a time when schools are being encouraged to help the children to learn outside as much as possible.  We agree a location to meet each class, which allows sessions to run smoothly and maximises the outdoor delivery time led by the RSPB.  We are creating pre-recorded introductory presentations for the class teacher to play to the children prior to the session to set the context.  A junior teacher from one school stated, “The children are well trained to be Covid-safe already and the workshop worked very well outside.”

Friendly distancing

Our trained session leaders will explain the need for distancing in a child-friendly way - all teachers involved in the trial stated that our staff communicated this message really well.  The teachers pointed out that the children are used to distancing and therefore this is not difficult to convey.  A ‘viewing spot’ is used to facilitate a way for the children to show what they find whilst remaining at a distance.  During minibeast hunts, we guide the children to look for key features on their individual creatures, using key questions or picture prompts to help them spot similarities and differences, learn about classification and identify their invertebrates.  The children loved the sessions; Ella (aged 6) commented, “I liked finding the creatures!”, whilst Jimmy (also aged 6) said, “I like putting them back so they don’t die. I don’t want nature to die.”


Clean, safe and well resourced

Clean kit is provided for each session, with enough to prevent children needing to share. Class teacher Mrs O-Reilly stated that, “Resources were well organised and safe.”  Kit was cleaned and stored using the RSPB’s guidance, which is informed by government standards and approved by our Health and Safety advisors.  Paper resources were ‘quarantined’ in a sealed envelope for 72 hours before use. When pens or pencils were required, the leader asked teachers to send the pupils outside ready equipped with these.  Sometimes pupils were assigned specific roles, such as being a scribe, which helped develop teamwork within the class, as well as minimising the handling of kit.

The now familiar message of ‘hands, face, space’ runs through our guidance, with regular hand cleaning being important for both session leaders and the pupils and school staff.  In keeping with educational guidance, we do not require our leaders to wear a face covering (unless requested by the school or they are entering the building for an agreed purpose such as handwashing) and instead seek to ensure that they do not become ‘close contacts’ with anyone by maintaining the 2 metre distancing.  We provide schools with a detailed information sheet to ensure everyone is clear of the measures and the roles and responsibilities of the school and the RSPB. 

For more information on the sessions and to complete an online enquiry form, please visit Belfast Outreach can take provisional bookings for sessions from April onwards (dependent on government regulations) whilst Cardiff is taking bookings for their new Digital Outreach sessions (which are being trialled from mid-February) and provisionally for face to face sessions for April onwards.  We would love schools in Birmingham, Edinburgh and Manchester to register their interest now, as this will help us to work out when we can resume our offer in those cities.