Two city schools are celebrating after receiving a prestigious award in recognition of the way they enrich the experiences of children outside of the classroom.

Nottingham Nursery School and Training Centre, which caters for children aged two to four, has been given the ‘Learning Outside the Classroom’ Mark (LOtC) Gold Award, while Blue Bell Hill Primary, in St Ann’s, scooped a Silver Award.

The LOtC Mark is a national accreditation for schools which recognises, and supports the development of, learning outside the classroom across all subject areas.

Nottingham Nursery School, based in Denman Street West, Nottingham, is one of only 20 schools in the UK to receive this award and one of only two nursery schools.

The school received the award in recognition of its approach:

  • Children have free access to the outdoors for at least 60% of the time which they are in school
    All children are involved in forest school sessions at least once per week and these are led by experienced forest school teachers
  • The school has broad-ranging and flexibly-planned outdoor provision including its own wild woodland, allotment, chickens, beach and moving water area. It also provides appropriate outdoor clothing for both staff and children
  • There is a positive approach to risk taking with all staff trained in making risk benefit analyses and how to support children with judging and taking risks. Parents are actively encouraged to engage with this approach and to understand the benefits which it offers
  • Exploratory play and curiosity are encouraged across the whole curriculum with children encouraged to lead their own investigations
  • Outdoor Learning is frequently a focus of staff development

Mary Prest, Head Teacher at Nottingham Nursery School, said: “We are so pleased to receive the LOtC Mark Gold Award, as it offers us recognition of something which is an absolutely integral part of our provision and which research shows is vital to children’s development, well-being and learning.”

Sirpa Fallstrom-Tracey, the school’s forest school lead teacher and SLE for outdoor learning, said: “I fully believe that children learn best when they are given time and space to explore, investigate, solve problems and take risks in a safe way in a supported outdoor environment.  The awe and wonder inspired when they find worms or make mud that’s like chocolate spread is just fantastic to see!  I am very excited that we have received this award for something we are so passionate about.”

The school, which opened in 2008, is the only local authority-maintained nursery school in the city and has no defined catchment.  It is unique in that as a school it admits up to 130 children aged three and four, and also admits up to 40 eligible two year olds. It offers before school childcare for children aged two to six.

Cllr Sam Webster, Portfolio Holder for Education, Employment and Skills, said: “Learning outside of the classroom is incredibly important for our children. School is about so much more than just lessons and tests – we want our children to have a broad range of experiences that help them to reach their full potential.

“Nottingham Nursery School and Blue Bell Hill Primary are beacons in this – giving some of our youngest children a good start in life, full of experiences that help them to develop some of the skills they will need in later life.”

The LOtC Mark is intended not only to recognise existing exemplary provision, but also to assist and support schools in developing their LOtC offer to enable all children to have access to meaningful LOtC experiences.

In order to ensure that the scheme meets the needs of schools, the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (CLOtC) has carried out an extensive consultation with primary and secondary mainstream schools, SEN schools and early years settings, as well as with local authority advisers. Results of this research have directly shaped and developed the structure and criteria of the award.

LOtC Mark (Gold) recognises exemplary LOtC provision in schools and indicates that a school is a leader in ensuring that all pupils have access to frequent, continuous and progressive learning outside the classroom.

In addition to the two schools, Martin Smith, Nottingham City Outdoor Education Advisor, received the LOtC Resource Provider Award for the work undertaken as part of the Outdoor Education Advisors’ Panel (OEAP) team who wrote the Outdoor Learning Cards and for leading the team who wrote the OEAP Environmental Cards.

More about the LOtC programme can be found here: