Children in wheelbarrow

Outdoor learning programme set to help even more Devon youngsters struggling in mainstream schools

Sue Cade
Authored by Sue Cade
Posted: Wednesday, April 7, 2021 - 11:44

A Devon organisation offering an alternative educational provision based entirely outdoors is expanding with three new sites across the county.

The Outdoors Group is opening new sites at Ilfracombe, Totnes and Tiverton and appointing additional area managers. The expansion means more support for young people struggling in mainstream education, through the group’s innovative Transitional Learning Programme (TLP).

TLP Manager, Amanda Leach explains, “As a form of intervention, TLP provides an alternative education option for the short or longer term.

“It's ideal for young people who need to build up their confidence and learn to regulate their emotions and behaviour.”

The programme has a high success rate: in the last year and a half, 67 percent of the learners have returned to their mainstream or specialist school full time within two terms with 26 percent moving on to The Outdoors School - the group’s independent special school.

TLP doesn’t follow the traditional curriculum but instead uses outdoor activities to encourage independence, confidence and teamwork whilst working on outcomes from the learner’s EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan).

Young people on the programme take part in a wide range of supervised activities including river and woodland exploration, tree climbing and making fires, with plenty of messy play. There are no buildings apart from a compost toilet so activities are planned around weather conditions – for example, in colder months there’s an emphasis on storytelling, craft and tool use carried out around a large fire.  

Amanda says, “Over the past two years, we’ve seen our TLP provision triple in size. In September 2019 we ran an average of three sessions a day; this has now increased to 10. It’s a clear indication of the growing numbers of young people needing a break from their everyday education setting.” 

The programme has a strong focus on mitigating risk, vital for young people whose behaviour at school can be challenging. “There are always two staff on site, and each learner has an assigned one-to-one staff member to build a trusting and safe relationship with. We also create groups of four made up from those we believe will bring out the best in each other.” 

Referrals to the programme are made by schools, with funding usually secured from the Local Authority for sessions of up to 15 hours per week. “TLP is intended as a temporary measure. The aim is for our learners to return to full-time education, although some attend longer-term because of specific needs. They will continue to attend their usual school alongside TLP.”

These three new TLP locations will supplement the current sites in Exeter and Newton Poppleford, plus locations in Okehampton and Exmouth which are shared with the Outdoors Group’s Forest School.      

To find out more visit: Transitional Learning Programme