Learning outside the classroom case study - North York Moors and Hall Garth Community Arts College
Written by Vicki Rees, Heritage Connections Project Officer, North York Moors National Park Authority
Hall Garth’s Alternative Education Group offers support and an alternative to exam based education for pupils who may find the school environment difficult for a number of reasons such as medical issues, special learning needs or behavioural difficulties. The pupils in the group spend one day a week out of the school taking part in a range of practical activities that can count towards nationally recognised vocational qualifications and certificates.
The North York Moors National Park Authority’s Heritage Connections Project for New Audiences is a 5 year project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund. It aims to empower urban communities in Middlesbrough and Redcar & Cleveland to access and participate in the heritage of the North York Moors National Park. Heritage Connections is supported by Middlesbrough Youth Services, Redcar & Cleveland’s Countryside Services and the National Trust.
Since 2005, the year 10 Alternative Education Group from the College has been spending one day a week of the Autumn Term in the North York Moors learning about the environment and wildlife of the National Park while developing team building and interpersonal skills.
The first session always takes place at the school when staff from the Heritage Connections project talk about the National Park, what they can find there and what they will be doing over the 15 week programme. This session also involves a short local walk to provide a break and some fresh air. The remainder of the programme is spent out and about in the North York Moors either with the Authority’s education or volunteer service staff.
With the education team, the pupils are taken on a range of walks where they learn about the history of the North York Moors, its industrial heritage and links with Middlesbrough and Teesside.
The volunteer staff lead the pupils on various conservation tasks such as tree and hedge planting, drystone walling and maintaining and repairing footpaths on the Cleveland Way National Trail.
Over the 15 week programme the pupils also get a chance to go mountain biking, rock climbing and get involved in a variety of team building exercises.
At the end of each session the pupils put together a short report including pictures and photographs about what they have done, what they have learnt and any difficulties they have overcome along the way.
The teachers and mentors at the school are incredibly positive about the impact that the programme has on the pupils. Increased confidence, improvements in behaviour and a real sense of pride in their work are just some of the outcomes that have been achieved.
One pupil was so proud of the hedge planting that he had been involved in, that on a separate trip to the National Park, he asked for the group to take a detour so he could show the hedge to his friends.
In addition, the group that completed the course in 2007 are currently applying to the Youth Opportunities Fund to facilitate an overnight residential programme in the National Park. This has been instigated by the group themselves because they enjoyed their time in the North York Moors so much.
“It has been really good to see the young people grow in their confidence and knowledge of the countryside over the course of the programme and to discover new skills. I am sure the time they have spent out and about in the National Park will encourage them to explore more of the area in their spare time with their friends and family and to do their bit to care for this special place.” Richard Smith, Senior Learning Mentor at Hall Garth Community Arts College.
For the National Park Authority, it has enabled us to introduce the benefits of being out and about in the fresh air to a group of people who had no or little prior experience of the National Park. It also enables us to introduce ideas around conservation and sustainability – important themes if the National Park is to continue – in a fun and enjoyable way.