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Outdoor Learning

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  • SEMH boys usually lead isolated lives. Most have been excluded from mainstream education and have spent considerable time away from peers and non-family adults. Some have experienced very shortened school timetables with patchy one to one provision.
  • Many are ostracized by their communities “the boy that no-one plays with and avoids” syndrome.
  • Some live in deprived urban environments, with no access to parks, woodland or even a back garden. Many do not own (or can even ride) a bike. Most have no desire or curiosity to explore their local area.
  • Almost all view the wider world through the lens of an Xbox, computer game, or mobile phone.
  • Practical skills are always lacking and there is little concern about environmental degradation and the natural world around them.
  • Few can dress appropriately for changing seasons, weather conditions and topography. 
  • Most have an irrational fear of the outdoors, particularly native flora and fauna.
  • None have the ability to personally “self-risk assess”.
  • All are deficient in a spectrum of vital socio-emotional skills including verbal communication, physical and mental resilience, self-discipline, the acceptance of hierarchy, rules and routines. Teamwork, compromise, stoicism, a sense of humour and manual dexterity are also largely absent.
  • Most SEMH boys work on a short-term basis, with no clear vision or plan for the future. In many cases “the future” may just be an hour or two away.
  • Despite a veneer of high-volume bravado self-confidence is always absent.
  • Problem-solving is what others must do for them.
  • In many cases there is the unspoken acceptance that “This is how it is for me. This is how it will always be”.


  •  Outdoors Learning at Langham is an amalgam of mainstream Forest School, bushcraft and other traditional skills, KS2/3 geography/history and horticulture. It has a clear aim of breaking what has been discussed above.


  • All Year 6 attend Coastal School 1x day per week. This is a full day in a demanding coastal environment where our youngest students are expected to work as part of a small team organising and carrying kit, building a beach shelter and setting up and cooking over an open fire. Hand tools and a range of bushcraft equipment are carried and used. Coastal School takes place every week throughout the academic year. This certainty advances acceptance. Resilience, team spirit and group cohesion is highly encouraged. There are also many opportunities for exploring the natural environment, collecting items, flora and fauna ID, wildlife watching, digging, and even construction skills from washed up debris. History is covered by exploration of WW2 pill boxes, rail lines and gun emplacements. Geography by coastal erosion, sea level rise, climate change and environmental degradation. Mathematics by tide times and moon phases. By July each year Year 6 have transformed into a coherent group who are able to carry out bushcraft and “survival” tasks with minimal adult supervision. Self-esteem and personal curiosity greatly improves and young SEMH boys have unknowingly built a solid socio-emotional foundation on which to continue their Langham Oaks journey.
  • Years 7-9 continue to work on a wide range of bushcraft and outdoor skills with the emphasis being on team spirit and collaboration. Small, achievable tasks ensure success. Boredom and a short attention span are combatted with flexibility and rapid task rotation. Bushcraft tools including lighters, knives, saws, hatchets and axes are on offer, demonstrating that adults at Langham have trust in boys who had previously not been trusted with anything inside a mainstream classroom. A range of stoves, including gas, alcohol and solid fuel are all used. Boys become competent in their operation within a safe framework of rules, routines and expectations. Cooking is a key component of Outdoor Learning, and most boys are able to cook a variety of foods (including foraged fruits, leaves and roots) over an open fire by Year 8. Plant ID is encouraged, which strengthens vocabulary. Knots and splicing are also taught, aiding kinaesthetic learners.   Off-site walking expeditions around the local footpath network also regularly take place which develops resilience and independence and introduces OS maps and compass work to younger SEMH boys. During late Autumn and Winter, a native tree and shrub planting programme takes place around the school grounds. Simple, environmental improvements such as this demonstrate to SEMH learners that there is always something bigger than themselves with longer timespans, and even small changes can make long-term differences.
  • Year 10 start to work on their Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award, with practice expeditions, campcraft and map reading all at the forefront of the syllabus. In Year 11 two walking expeditions take place on consecutive days where SEMH boys are expected to plan, organise, and then navigate a 10- and 5-mile lowland route with no adult assistance. A D of E external assessor makes pass/fail decisions with teamwork and problem-solving skills being key. Camping overnight (on-site) is also part of the Bronze Award.


Planned opportunities for Reading.

There are considerable opportunities for reading to take place during most Outdoor Lessons. At Coastal School there are a number of information boards on the walk to our “basecamp” area. Rules, routines and kit lists are written on the classroom whiteboard. A bushcraft video on YouTube will always have subtitles on.  A wide range of books and magazines are on offer on the Outdoors Room coffee table. Several books are instruction books (knots), and boys have to follow written chronological instructions for success. Seed planting involves the reading of seed packets. On off-site expeditions and journeys boys are encouraged to read road signs and even petrol pump instructions when filling up the school minibus!

In Year 10/11 boys will be expected to read an OS map and have the accompanying comprehension regarding technical words.


Outdoor Learning at Langham is not about becoming the next Ray Mears or Bear Grylls. It is an educational “vehicle” to help transport disenfranchised SEMH boys into mainstream society to become engaged, responsible, curious, and most importantly, employable citizens. During their Outdoor Learning journey at Langham our pupils start to develop into more confident individuals, willing to confront problems, work collaboratively, accept routines and boundaries and “have a go” at new skills and experiences outside of a traditional SEMH learners comfort zone.