It’s not often you stay up late to witness the publication of a school inspection report. However Middleton Park Primary School and Nursery in Aberdeen is doing an exceptional job of providing an excellent education for their children. I’m delighted that a local school has been recognised for its efforts – the staff, children, parents and local community.
What is remarkable is the cohesiveness of the curriculum and the collaborative approach to learning. The staff and children have shared aspirations and work across the school on projects and in partnership with other schools both locally and internationally. The staff found that working in pairs on specific projects or series of lessons really helped them get outside. The focus was clearly on considering how the outdoors could really enhance the children’s understanding, knowledge and skills within any of their learner-led projects. The mutual collaborative support providing a valuable mechanism for embedding the use of the outdoors and reflecting on the effectiveness of the learning which happened as a result.
There is a a judicious, well-thought out approach to partnership working in the use of the outdoors. For the past three years a number of outdoor professionals including Mandy Tulloch of Mud Pies and Grace Banks of Silverhaar were invited to work with the school on focused projects such as developing creative writing outdoors. The school chaplain, Sue Thomson, was inspired to look at her work with Middleton Park and developed a series of Creation experiences with the nursery class on this theme. Although adult-initiated, the approach was sensitive, thoughtful and easily adaptable to other settings.
The nursery staff need a special mention as it was their regular use of Holly Forest as a Wee Green Space that was the catalyst for many outdoor experiences – not least their Christmas get-together was based in the woods.
The videos they produce illustrate their approach. The report specifically highlights the use of outdoor learning as an approach to raising attainment. “Across the school, children experience a very wide range of stimulating, rich and innovative learning experiences as the norm. Their outdoor experiences are exceptional and have resulted in raised attainment.”
In nursery … “Children’s experiences are enriched through daily opportunities to learn and play outdoors. They benefit from the opportunity to take all aspects of their learning outdoors, such as painting, music, early language and mathematics and science. They make very good use of their mud kitchen and use their imagination and creativity to invent their own ‘mud’ dinners… They are very knowledgeable about the benefits of conservation, caring for their nursery garden and the Holly Forest. During their outings to the forest, they demonstrate ably their knowledge and informed attitudes about community issues such as litter dropping and dog fouling… Children use story books independently in the playroom and outdoors in the forest.”
The videos I’ve added to this post are just three of many – they are all really worth watching. I hope that the school continues to flourish for many years to come with children experiencing the ongoing joy of learning, indoors and out.