Report finds outdoor learning could help tackle pandemic inequalities

Children hang notes on a washing line.

The project revealed how coronavirus is widening disparities between children from different backgrounds. - Credit: Learning through Landscapes (LtL)

Hackney students have benefitted from a £275,000 UK-wide outdoor learning pilot funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, which has revealed widening disparities between children from marginalised and non-marginalised households. 

The pilot - My School, My Planet - supported more than 1,000 children from disadvantaged backgrounds in Stormont House School in Lower Clapton and 49 schools across the UK following the first lockdown last year. 

The scheme was delivered by the charity Learning through Landscapes (LtL) and assessed by think tank The Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY), following research published by Natural England which revealed 70 per cent of children from ethnic minority backgrounds and low-income households reported spending less time outside since the outbreak of Covid-19, compared with 57pc of white children and 57pc of children from households with an income above £17,000. 

Research by the Education Endowment Foundation also showed some students are now about seven months behind their peers in reading and mathematics.

Carley Sefton, chief executive at LtL, said: “It is a birthright that all people should have access to nature; I find it heartbreaking that some of the most vulnerable children in our communities are once again missing out.

"We know that time spent outdoors helps reduce stress and improve physical and mental health as well as giving children a sense of ownership over the planet."

The findings report measurable increases in the physical activity of My School, My Planet participants, and a notable increase in academic knowledge and understanding of the programme’s core subjects and illustrate how school-grounds outdoor education programmes could be used to support pupils returning to school. 

Commenting on the findings, Loic Menzies, chief executive of CfEY said: “There is no doubt that over the next few months, schools and pupils will face innumerable challenges reintegrating into school life.

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"The findings from our study are extremely promising, demonstrating that teachers and pupils hugely appreciated the chance to rebuild relationships, get outside, get active and learn about their natural environment.”

Ms Sefton added: “I am incredibly proud that our My School, My Planet programme was able to achieve these three priorities and urge that this is considered as a model to support more children now.”

To learn more about the project visit