The Association for Science Education

P1.3 Out of school learning


Learning is a life-skill and cannot be confined to classrooms indeed learning that is so confined is likely to be largely meaningless and useless. This article embraces the value of linking classroom learning meaningfully to out of school activity. From a teacher's perspective this may include setting homework, organising visits to museums, fieldwork, industrial/work placements, science clubs etc. Some schools now work with extended hours to help provide services and activities for pupils, families and the wider community. A wide range of activities is considered and particular emphasis is placed on considerations for pupils well-being and safety and the legal requirements that are in place.

Standards: Q24 & Q30

Key words: Visits, Fieldwork, Museums, Science clubs, Lifelong learning.


1.0 Qualifying to Teach Standards and Requirements
2.0 What is out of school hours learning?
2.1 What activities might be involved?
3.0 The Official View
4.0 Organising School Visits
4.1 Field Work
4.2 Museums
5.0 Science Clubs
6.0 ATSE Conference
7.0 Resources

1.0 Qualifying to Teach Standards and Requirements

There are a large number of references to out of school contexts within both the Standards and the Requirements of Qualifying to Teach (DfES 02/02) These feferences to the 'old' standards are retained since the references to 'out of school learning' are more specific here.
Download P1.3_1.0a 'Out of School Standards'

They are mentioned explicitly in the 'old' standards: 

3.1.5 As relevant to the age range that they are trained to teach, they are able to plan opportunities for pupils to learn in out-of-school contexts, such as school visits, museums, theatres, field-work and employment based settings, with the help of other staff where appropriate. (In the 2007 version of the standards this is less explicit in Q24: Plan homework and other out of class work to sustain learners' progress and to extend and consolidate their learning. AND Q30; Establish a purposeful and safe learning environment conducive to learning and identify opportunities for learners to tearn in out-of-school contexts.)

and somewhat more obliquely in a number of others. The emphasis within the scope of the more explicit 'old' standards gives some indication of the range for this area which is more than organising a one day trip. As well as the traditional enrichment activities associated with museum visits, field work and industrial links we also need to consider the emergent phenomenon of out of school hours learning within extended schools that provide a range of services and activities often beyond the school day to help meet the needs of its pupils, their families and the wider community.

2.0 What is out of school hours learning?

This is a term used to describe:
learning activity outside normal lessons which young people take part in voluntarily. It is accordingly an inclusive term, embracing many activities, with many names and guises. Its purpose is to improve pupils motivation, build their self-esteem and help them to become more effective learners. Above all it aims to raise achievement. (DfEE 1998, Extending Opportunity: a national framework for study support)

As with many emergent ideas there  are a number of terms which can be used interchangeably for this type of activity including:

  • study support (the English government’s preferred term, synonymous with OSHL)
  • out-of-hours learning
  • after-school activities
  • extended learning
  • extra-curricular activities/learning (The foremost group working in this area, ContinYou, use the term out of school hours learning.)

2.1 What activities might be involved?

OSHL covers a broad range of activities including:

  • homework clubs
  • help with key skills including literacy, numeracy and ICT
  • study clubs linked to or extending curriculum subjects
  • sports, games and adventurous outdoor activities
  • creative ventures (music, drama dance film, and the full range of arts)
  • residential events
  • space and support for coursework and exam revision
  • opportunities for volunteering in the school or community
  • opportunities to pursue particular interests (science, ICT etc.)
  • mentoring by adults and other pupils
  • learning about learning (thinking skills and accelerated learning)
  • community service (crime prevention, environmental clubs) 

3.0 The Official View

Ralph Tabberer writing a frontispiece to Study Support in ITT (DfES ref.0492/2001) makes the statement that:

‘Study support can complement and support many aspects of the roles of both teachers and learners. It offers a great opportunity for teachers and trainee teachers to contribute to and benefit further from the life of schools. It enables them to become more involved in the teaching and learning process both within the school day and during after-school activities.’ He goes on to say that:

Involvement in study support can enable experienced and trainee teachers to participate more fully in improving pupil motivation and in raising pupil achievement, encouraging new attitudes to learning as a lifelong process. It offers trainees tremendous potential for both personal and professional development that will enhance their confidence, creativity and enthusiasm for their careers as teachers.

He reiterated his belief in this area of work at the Conference Higher Education and Learning Beyond the Curriculum held at the National College for School Leadership on 31st October 2003. The conference considered how an understanding of out of school hours learning, extended schools and partnerships beyond the classroom can be embedded within a range of courses and programmes.

4.0 Organising School Visits

Standard Q30 explicitly mentions planning for out-of-school contexts, such as school visits, museums, theatres, field-work and employment-based settings, whilst Q24  states that trainees will need to provide homework and other out-of-class work which consolidates and extends work carried out in the class and encourages pupils to learn independently.

The scope of this Standard within the QtT Handbook for Guidance makes it clear the whilst the trainee does not necessarily need to organise a visit, they will need to demonstrate some awareness of health and safety issues relating to learning in out-of-school contexts. Advice on these issues can be found on several of the teacher union websites. The National Union of Teachers have a downloadable resource at which considers some of the key issues to be considered when planning and undertaking school journeys, in particular:

  • Legal responsibility of teachers for the safety of pupils
  • Practical steps to be taken when organising journeys
  • Particular legal requirements relating to use of outdoor activity centres and school transport.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers produce a priced publication Taking students off-site which covers the issues of liability and negligence, organising a journey, work experience and  insurance.

In a similar vein the Department for Education and Skills produce a guide Health and Safety of Pupils on Educational Visits: A good practice Guide this is available from or download P1.3_4.0a 'hspv'

4.1 Field Work

Professor Lord May of Oxford – President of the Royal Society wrote:

It is really, really important that citizens learn to value their environment and to understand the science behind the great ecological dilemmas which face all of us. Never before has there been so much talk of education about sustainability, about biodiversity, and for citizenship.

All these aspirations remain ‘pie in the sky’ unless every pupil has an entitlement to extend his or her study of science out of the classroom. It is in the field that science becomes alive and where acting locally become thinking globally. Our young people are being let down if their science education does not include field experience.’ He did so as an endorsement of The Field Studies Council/British Ecological Society report concerning biology fieldwork in the curriculum. This can be downloaded from the FSC website.

The report highlights several issues: ‘the decline in fieldwork in schools means that trainee science teachers are less likely to have experience outside the classroom at the outset of their training. The limited formal experience of this area that is obvious for chemists and physicists is further confounded by the fact many biology teachers enter the profess from a degree background in a discipline such as microbiology, biochemistry or physiology with very little experience not only of fieldwork but also of ecology, whole organism biology and biodiversity.’ This is doubly true for chemists and physicists who may have had no formal exposure to this aspect of work.

The same website contains details of the courses that the FSC provide for schools and teachers which are designed to  ‘meet the demands of all levels of the main curriculum and specifications for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.’

4.2 Museums

For many people an out of school activity will equate with a visit to a museum. The two national museums, the Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum, have well-developed websites and offer on-line services that trainees should be exposed to. However, there are many other museums and discovery centres around the country that would support a science visit. Information about such centres can be found at This group represents over 80 science centres and discovery centres in the UK. Its ‘purpose is to raise the profile of science centres, and to establish their role as a forum for dialogue between science specialists and the public and as an informal learning resource for learners of all ages.’

5.0 Science Clubs

The British Science Association has an extensive range of awards and schemes that support science clubs. They also offer a workshop for trainee teachers. 
Download P1.3_5.0a 'The BA'

6.0 ATSE Conference

Click here to access the conference proceedings.

7.0 Resources

The various issues associated with Out of School Learning are covered in a number of books.
Download P1.3_7.0a 'Resources'

This section authored by Neil Herrington, UEL London

Published: 23 Nov 2005