Significant Scottish Outdoor Learning and Play Documents

2 January 2018 · 4 comments

in International, Whole School

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Over the past decade, the Scottish Government and other national organisations have produced a wide range of publications which can help schools and early years and childcare settings develop their outdoor learning and play provision. Below is the collection I have gathered in an approximate timeline.


  • Many other documents exist prior to 2007  that refer to outdoor learning in various guises. I feel that Taking Learning Outdoors is a defining point within Curriculum for Excellence. It was the catalyst of what has emerged since there. It is also rare in that it provides a definition of outdoor learning.
  • There may be other documents which are also worthy of inclusion in the list below which I have forgotten about. Please let me know of any inadvertent omissions
  • The links are provided in good faith. If they no longer work, please let me know. 

Taking Learning Outdoors makes the connections between Curriculum for Excellence and outdoor learning explicit and provides the rationale for many of the publications in years to come.

There are two documents within the Early Years Framework. This is the 10-year strategy published by the Scottish Government in early 2009. This is the first reference to Forest Schools and nature kindergartens in a national document that I can find.

Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning is the statement of expectations about outdoor learning. It takes a marked step forward because it advocates:

  • Frequent, regular and progressive outdoor experiences
  • That outdoor learning is the responsibility of all staff, not an outdoor learning coordinator or keen individual
  • That partnership working is necessary to provide the breadth and depth of outdoor experiences

Back in 2010 I blogged in more detail about this document. Outdoor Learning – Practical Guidance for teachers and practitioners in Scotland  (2011): This is the “how” document that was written to provide Scottish educators with suggestions and advice about learning outdoors. It provides research snippets and training activities as well. It is the first time free play is specifically referred to within education and recognition that outdoor play is an integral part of any school’s approach to learning outside. More background information can be found here.

Building your Curriculum: Outside and In  (2011). This is an annex to the practical guidance document. It was created to help schools and centres think about where they are in terms of embedding outdoor learning and where they need to be. On the second page there’s a useful reflection tool.

One Planet Working Group (2012) Learning for Sustainability Report

This is the original document which makes recommendations about Learning for Sustainability. These were accepted by the Scottish Government almost in full.  It unites global citizenship, outdoor learning and education for sustainable development into one coherent, whole school approach. All GTCS registered teachers must actively embrace and promote the principles and practices of sustainability in all aspects of their work.

The Scottish Government (2012) Going Out There.  This is the national guidance about off-site excursions. Every local authority will have their own guidance which must be followed by local authority run settings. It does get updated via the website so keep checking on a regular basis. The Scottish Advisory Panel for Outdoor Education (SAPOE) and HSE also have input.


Scottish Government (2103) The Play Strategy. There are two parts to the Play Strategy – Our Vision and Our Action Plan. Both documents cite the need for children and young people to be able to have daily free play opportunities in natural spaces.

Education Scotland (2015) How Good is Our School (4th Ed)? Whilst not specific to outdoor learning and play, there are 15 references to these and learning for sustainability.  There are two early years documents which have similarities: How Good is Your Early Learning and Childcare? and Building the Ambition.

Care Inspectorate (2016) My World Outdoors   This document shares good practice and sets out the expectations of the Care Inspectorate with regard to play and learning wholly or partially outdoors.

Inspiring Scotland (2016)  Loose Parts Play: A Toolkit. Practical guide to developing loose parts play.

The Scottish Government (2017) Space to Grow is timely design guidance for early learning and childcare settings and out of school care settings. It has a good emphasis and set of questions for consideration of outdoor as well as indoor environments.

The Scottish Government (2017) A Blueprint for 2020: The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland: Quality Action Plan. This document sets out a key aim to develop guidance for outdoor nurseries for establishing and so on.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

rob bushby January 2, 2018 at 19:32

Thanks Juliet, helpful collation.
Hopefully this has more significance in next 18 months than previous:

2 further docs of relevance/potential:
Youth Awards in Scotland
England-based, but transferable, and highly relevant to Scotland


Juliet Robertson January 4, 2018 at 18:42

Thanks Rob – these additions are useful and I hope others will also contribute other documents in due course too.


Lucy Tait January 4, 2018 at 13:30

Wow well done. Very interesting and extremely useful, thank you!


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