Outdoor Learning Facilities For Local Schools

Rural teams at the Duchy of Lancaster have been visiting local primary schools across the estates to encourage open air learning and the extension of the classroom into the natural environment.

Several community schools applied to the Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent Fund at the start of the Covid pandemic for additional funding to support new learning resources such as outdoor classrooms, reading areas and libraries. One of these was Thorneyholme RC Primary School in Dunsop Bridge on the Whitewell Estate where Lancashire Estates Director Laura Airton was delighted to ‘cut the ribbon’ and formally declare the facility open.

A similar application was received from Needwood C of E Primary School in Staffordshire where staff were keen to not only improve the library space available to their pupils but to create a safe and sustainable space for use by the entire community. The result was ‘The Book Cave’, a stand-alone library in the grounds which can be used by anyone looking for access to books or a quiet ‘inside-outside’ space that enhances their reading experience. 

Commenting on these and other similar initiatives, Duchy Head of Rural Carol Hawkey said: “The difference open air teaching and access to the natural environment can bring to young children and their ability to learn is well documented. We have been delighted to be able to support these and other creative projects across our rural estates which help to bring learning from form to field in an exciting and innovative way.”

Mrs Olga Jackson, Headteacher at Thorneyholme RC Primary School added: “Space, fresh air and the freedom to learn are important to children’s emotional, social and personal well-being, allowing them to become independent and to grow in self-esteem and confidence.”

Helen Neesom, a teacher at Needwood Primary School, added: “We wanted to embed a culture of reading for all members of the community and to provide access to this at all points of the day.  Our expanded library space and supplementary “Book Cave” in the playground has allowed us to do just that and I am delighted to report that both areas are actively used daily.”

Through the Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent Fund the Duchy makes small-scale grants to a broad range of community projects across its rural estates and the historic County Palatine. Approximately £400,000 is invested in these ‘local good causes’ each year.