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Cabinet Secretary shows support for Outdoor Learning in Scotland’s National Parks

28th October 2011

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Michael Russell is in the Cairngorms National Park today (Friday 28th October 2011) to attend and speak at a conference on outdoor learning which is making a major impact on young people’s learning prospects.

Mr Russell is attending the 2nd Outdoor Learning in the National Parks conference at Glenmore Lodge near Aviemore. The annual event celebrates and showcases how the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Parks provide ideal learning environments for children and young people, and how over the last two years strategic support for authorities, teachers and instructors has been developed.

Around 120 delegates from schools, local authorities, the National Parks and other partners are taking part in the conference. They will hear how pupils, staff, learning providers and rangers have successfully run or taken part in a series of learning workshops, residential experiences and other initiatives that demonstrate how Scotland’s National Park’s can be linked to and help deliver the Curriculum for Excellence.

Michael Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: “I wholeheartedly support the aim of the conference to share and mark the progress of the National Parks project. This partnership model brings great benefits in helping local authorities to provide easily accessible and sustainable learning experiences.

“We’re blessed in Scotland with such rich geology, geography, natural heritage and diversity of landscapes.  This makes for an environment which provides a first class backdrop for outdoor learning experiences which can help build the confidence and skills of anyone else who experiences it.

“Congratulations to the National Parks and the partners in this project for what they’ve achieved to date. I look forward to seeing the project develop even more over the coming years.”

The conference highlights how effective partnership working and sharing of experiences are key components in enabling outdoor learning to become more integrated into every subject as well as helping break down barriers to accessing the outdoors. The Outdoor Learning in the National Parks project is a partnership between Scotland’s two National Parks, Education Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and seven partner local authorities bordering the Parks.

Convener of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, David Green, said: “National Parks are unique, high quality environments that offer fantastic opportunities for pupils to learn.

“Outdoor learning helps build pride and a sense of belonging in young people and can support a range of learning styles. Our National Parks provide an inspirational setting to help pupils understand more about sustainability issues as well as encouraging them to engage with the natural, cultural and built heritage around them. The experience children of all ages get from learning in the Parks can also help them learn more successfully, increase their confidence, sense of responsibility and what they contribute – some of the key components of the Curriculum for Excellence.”

Workshops that offer an insight into what schools are doing that is different and transformational are part of the conference. By inspiring delegates throughout the day, it is hoped that local authority policies and improvement plans can be influenced to show commitment to increasing capacity for outdoor learning.

Linda McKay, Convener of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority said: “Scottish National Parks provide truly memorable experiences for young people. Outdoor learning taking place in inspiring landscapes creates memorable and enriching experiences for young people of all abilities. Outdoor learning activities support the Curriculum for Excellence offering opportunities for cross curricular working, challenging students whilst increasing their understanding of these unique environments.”