By Melanie Cousins 2nd September 2020

With schools returning in exceptionally challenging times FSC has been working hard to adapt and provide ways to help teachers with the challenges of catching up, supporting all students to get back to the same level and covering essential course content.

We strongly believe fieldwork and practical learning underpin the subjects of biology, geography, environmental science and geology.  Having delivered learning outside the classroom for over 75 years we know there is no substitute for first-hand experiences and that fieldwork is able to engage students with their subjects in a completely unique way.

With the unimaginable circumstances and change this year has brought to all of us, we have had to look at the best ways we can support teachers, and offer a range of opportunities to ensure schools can retain these vital outdoor learning opportunities for their students:

  • delivering our day courses at our centres, which have been transformed to operate in a fully Covid secure way
  • visiting schools to deliver outreach in their grounds or local field sites
  • offering a range of new digital packages where face-to-face is not possible

Here’s just some of the reasons all students and teachers should be benefiting from undertaking fieldwork this year:

It is possible to do fieldwork in a safe way

Our top priority has been to ensure our centres are Covid-secure putting procedures and systems in place to ensure the safety of our visitors and staff.

Our courses are delivered outdoors as much as possible – this is what we do anyway to maximise first hand experiences for all our visitors. This approach fits well with current public health concerns, as students will not only be with their usual ‘bubble’ but also outdoors and away from others. It means we have not had to compromise on the excellent quality of teaching and benefits of fieldwork.

We have fully reconfigured our indoor spaces to allow for social distancing and for bubbles to be separated, we are carrying out regular enhanced cleaning throughout centres, our tutors will remain distanced from students, equipment will not be shared and will be cleaned between uses.

Our centres are fortunate to have easy access to lots of outdoor space enabling visitors to spread out and benefit from this time outside, safely and boosting their own wellbeing.

If a day visit to us isn’t an option for your school at the moment, rest assured FSC can still fully support your fieldwork needs through our outreach or digital packages.

“Students who live in an urban environment have an invaluable insight into the physical processes that they are required to understand for the GCSE course.”

Geography teacher who visited FSC in January 2020

Free up time for teachers

Our expert tutors deliver courses, so teachers have plenty of time to spend with their students.  After so long with teachers and students working remotely and alone this offers a fantastic opportunity to make up for lost time. Teachers can use this time to be able to assess how students are coping and offer support for those who need it most, saving time down the line.

Our day courses – at our centres or if we come out to you on outreach – are packed with as much content as possible to really maximise the time spent out the classroom. Not only do we cover specific topics, but also support students to consolidate their learning and overall understanding of the subject. We provide all the resources and kit needed too.

Digital opportunities ensure content will be covered by our specifically developed, high quality resources, reducing the need for teachers to prep these areas.

“Getting hands on and actually doing these practicals in an out of college, field work scenario has encouraged and provided the students with a renewed enthusiasm for the biology topics covered in the classroom.”

Biology teacher who visited FSC in June 2019

Grow knowledge, understanding and skills

Taking learning outdoors or into a new environment provides a different, and often more memorable way of learning. Time and again we hear from teachers that students who struggle in the classroom have benefited hugely from fieldwork.

Our tutors have outstanding curriculum knowledge and courses are developed to maximise benefit back at school. Dedicated time focusing on a subject, in an outdoor space can make a big difference to the rest of the year. 

“Being able to carry out these methods first hand gave me a strong understanding on these methods and how to carry these out successfully. It also helped me focus on my investigation as I personally prefer being able to learn on the move in a more interactive environment than a classroom.”

A level geography student who visited FSC in February 2020

Develop a passion for the subject

Being fully immersed in their subject we constantly see students engaging fully and really enjoying what they are doing. Teachers tell us they have more students taking their subject at the next level following fieldwork experiences. With climate change and biodiversity loss remaining our greatest challenges we need young people who are not only skilled but passionate about a career in sciences or geography.

Practical learning and fieldwork is often identified as a motivator for many students, including those who may have fallen behind. Getting this inspiration back may help some of these students to be driven to catch up.

“The picturesque locations and enjoyable methods also helped to inspire their love of fieldwork – clearly a huge part of Geography careers and courses!”  

Geography teacher who visited FSC in February 2020

Enhance personal growth

For most students, fieldwork isn’t just about the subject knowledge: from being in a new environment, and learning new skills to working with different people we see clear personal development in areas like:

  • Resilience
  • Confidence
  • Problem solving
  • Independence
  • Risk taking
  • STEM

“The course has hit literacy, numeracy, STEM skills, building resilience, teamworkespecially building teamwork and resilience as most pupils lack in confidence and are shy, and this has opened many doors and opportunities” 

Biology teacher who visited FSC in November 2019

Looking ahead

We are so encouraged to see that although Ofqual have taken the decision to remove some fieldwork requirements for assessments in 2021 in certain subjects, that there is no appetite to see this continue. There was widespread acknowledgement of how important fieldwork and practical learning is to geography and biology.

From 2022 these elements will be reinstated as a crucial and examined part of education in geography, biology, environmental science and geology. Don’t let this cohort be the only ones to miss out on the valuable experience and learning opportunities brought by practical learning and fieldwork.

Find out more about how FSC can support fieldwork and practical learning for schools
in 2021, 2022 and beyond.