Last Updated: Friday, March 20, 2020

Engaging parents and families through John Muir Award – East Ayrshire

What is this?

East Ayrshire Council has used Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC) funding to partner with the John Muir Trust and employ a John Muir Award Attainment Project Officer. This role targets pupils and families experiencing poverty as a barrier to learning.

Who is this for?

This resource will be of interest to senior leaders, headteachers, class teachers, Scottish Attainment (SAC) teachers, Home Link workers, Early Years Practitioners, pupils and families.


East Ayrshire Council’s Parental Engagement Framework 2019-2021 recognises that parents are the first and ongoing educators of their children and they know them best. The promotion of parental involvement and engagement partnership working is a key priority within the Education Service. East Ayrshire Council are committed to raising attainment and will support schools and families to close the poverty related attainment gap by promoting the involvement and engagement of parents in the education of their child.

The John Muir Trust believes that everyone including families, should have opportunities to enjoy the benefits of wild nature. Family John Muir Award supports parental engagement through school, community and family workers and encourages families to spend time together outdoors.

East Ayrshire’s Learning Outdoors Support Team in partnership with the Trust, funds a post to support the John Muir Award activity to help raise attainment across the local authority.

Improvement questions

  • How can school parental engagement help deliver Learning for Sustainability and reduce poverty as a barrier to learning?
  • Which local partners/agencies could you collaborate with to achieve your goals?

What was done

Situated within a rural post-industrial town with a high level of deprivation and unemployment, Dalmellington Primary School has good links within the community. All parents at the school were offered the opportunity to achieve a Family John Muir Award.

As an introduction for families to the Award, a campfire and marshmallow toasting was offered on parents evening. This allowed for informal chat about what the Award entailed.

Opportunities for outdoor engagement amongst families were supported by the school and the local Scout leaders offered enjoyable introductory activities over two weekends. These included guided walks, outdoor art and learning about local flora and fauna.

A community litter pick enabled families to feel empowered to take action and make a difference which is a key part of the Awards Conserve challenge.


Class teachers reported pupils coming into school on Mondays full of excitement to share their family’s outdoor adventures. Pupils and their families were brought together to celebrate their achievements at school assemblies where they were presented with certificates.

Ongoing involvement

Further evidence of parental involvement and engagement in John Muir Trust and school partnerships was recently showcased when the Home Link Worker used the Award with targeted families to encourage them to spend time outdoors together. Five families achieved their Discovery Award and each of them has planned to progress onto the Explorer Award. One mum is now volunteering in her local Primary School with outdoor learning and carrying out conservation work in the local Craigengillan Estate. Recently whilst carrying out some conservation work in the Estate she said “This is the hardest thing I have ever done, it has improved my confidence to try other new things”.

If you would like to work in the great outdoors and help care for wild places, there are many ways you can volunteer with the John Muir Trust. For further information contact: