Could socially distanced outdoor lessons be a safer solution for schools?

Could an innovative approach to outdoor learning be the answer to keeping children in schools?

Since September, schools have had to get to grips with the new normal and teachers have faced the overwhelming task of keeping up to date with the everchanging government guidelines to keep children safe.  

But despite dividing children into class bubbles to minimise the risk of transmission within schools, the latest data suggests 20% of primary schools have reported having one or more pupils off school due to Coronavirus.

However, could an innovative approach to outdoor learning be the answer to keeping children in schools?

Holy Family School in Addlestone, Surrey, is one school that has been using specifically designed, socially distanced lesson plans from Teach Active to reduce the risk of infection without impacting on children’s learning. 

Not only are these lessons easily adaptable for learning outside, but they are also teaching the children key maths and English topics whilst being physically active, so the benefits are manifold.  

According to Ofsted’s latest report, children’s education suffered during lockdown, but so did their physical and mental health.  By teaching active lessons, not only is attainment in these key subjects improved but children’s fitness and mental well-being also benefits. 

Niamh Hunter, a year 4 teacher at the school believes that getting children physically active this term has been fundamental to their wellbeing.  “The lack of activity and communication with their peers during lockdown has meant we really needed to focus on this when they returned to school.  Active learning in socially distant lessons have enabled us to do this.”

Niamh frequently has the children taking part in lessons such as Table Tennis with a Twist. This is where children kids choose instruction cards with tasks such as “count up to 200 in fives”. Every right answer serves as part of the ‘rally’ with imaginary bats and served back to their opponent to answer a follow up question.

Multiplication relays are also popular. This is where pupils run up and down in relays in the playground after answering an arithmetic question correctly.

Research into this type of learning tells us that physically active children concentrate better, attain better grades, and are more motivated to learn.

The extra vitamin D from being outside is an added bonus.

The social element of active learning has been great for getting the children back into the routine of school and socialising with each other. “The children are always so excited to take part in active learning lessons and interact with one another. We’ve not had a single child tell us they didn’t want to take part.”

Despite recent optimistic reports of a vaccine for Coronavirus, Covid-19 is likely to be a shadow in the school classroom for some time to come.  Active learning in socially distanced bubbles could be the answer to reducing the risk of infection and getting children outdoors for longer without impacting on their learning.


Jon Smedley is a former teacher and founder of Teach Activewhich provides active lesson plans for primary schoolsAny teacher can access up to 50 active lesson plans in English and Maths for free for a trial period at www.teachactive.org, many of which are social distance friendly.