Last Updated: Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Curriculum Outdoors Attainment Challenge (COACh) - Literacy and Numeracy

What is this?

​This exemplar outlines the intervention of Curriculum Outdoors Attainment Challenge (COACh) in seven East Ayrshire schools working with children, staff and parents to embed Outdoor Learning to raise attainment in literacy and numeracy. This supports whole school communities to engage with children’s learning and have high shared ambition, aspirations and expectations.

Who is this for?

All school staff, senior managers, local authority personnel and external partners​.

​​How to use this exemplar to improve practice​?

This exemplar supports the four contexts of learning. It describes a variety of pedagogical approaches to learning and teaching in the outdoor environment (see attached ​​PowerPoint and hyperlinks) and could be used as a collegiate development resource. It helps pupils to: influence planning, direct their learning, apply new skills, develop creativity, and reinforce and contextualise their learning. Staff were upskilled and enabled to implement the principles of curriculum design. This links to GTCS benchmarks;
2.1.3 “Knowing how to plan systematically effective teaching and learning across different contexts and experience".
3.1.3 "Skilfully​ deploy a wide variety of innovative resources and teaching approaches including digital technologies and where appropriate actively seeking outdoor learning opportunities".
3.1.4 “Show commitment to raising learners' expectations of themselves and others and their level of care for themselves, for others and for the natural world".

The questions can be used and adapted to reflect on current practice through professional dialogue with colleagues. You may also wish to create a bespoke set of questions for your context using How good is our school? (4th edition)​.

​Improvement questions

  • How effectively are learners using a range of resources including outdoor spaces and community resources to support their learning?
  • How well do we use our community and spaces to deliver high quality outdoor learning?
  • How do outdoor learning experiences contribute to learner progress and achievement?
  • How well is the entitlement of learners to ‘Learning for Sustainability’ being met?​


​​Powerpoint presentation: Curriculum Outdoors Attainment Challenge (COACh) (1.3 MB)

PDF file: The role of Leadership with the COACh programme (653 KB)


Explore this exemplar

What was done?

The COACh programme contains 5 elements; Building staff capacity, Partnerships and Wider Achievement, Parental Engagement, Research and Resourcing.

​Building staff capacity
Whole school CLPL was delivered to all staff (including support staff, janitors and headteachers) to inform a coherent approach to engaging with school grounds, local green space and the wider community. Team teaching over the academic year with 3 classes at Early, First and Second Levels allowed modelling and coaching to encourage staff to embed the learning. This was further shared with working groups in collegiate time and stage partners where applicable.​​

Partnerships and Wider Achievement
Wider partnerships were established with local and national organisations to develop pupils' community involvement and for their achievements to be recognised. Local partnerships included: East Ayrshire Woodlands - children helped make green spaces accessible and Community Services - litter picking raised awareness and enhanced the environment. All schools will continue with wider achievement activities in the community including Heritage Hero and John Muir Awards.

Parental Engagement
Teachers from the COACh team, met with Parent Councils to share the programme aims, parents' role and opportunities for supporting learning. Parent leaflets were distributed with practical ideas, safety and clothing considerations, which outlined the impact this could have on their child's learning. Parent helpers supported in all the green space activities and some, who were interested, worked towards and achieved certificates, promoting life-long learning.

Qualitative evidence from all stakeholders was gathered at the beginning and end of the programme. Baseline measures of children's performance in Literacy and Numeracy also gave data for improvement. This evidence will be used to inform a number of meta-analyses which are being written as part of the Scottish Research Hub for the Institute of Outdoor Learning and supported by Cumbria University.

All schools received practical resources including hand lenses, trundle wheels, Ghillie kettles and books mapped to curriculum outcomes and levels. Schools were supported to recognise the learning potential of school grounds, greenspace and the community. Using the Grounds for Learning Audit, playground spaces were developed to capitalise on their learning potential. Using Scottish Natural Heritage mapping schools, establishments were given practical advice to access local woodlands and greenspaces. This advice could be adopted for regular use.


The COACh programme was designed to support teachers in embedding outdoor learning as a valuable context for learning. It aims to enhance provision of, and make meaningful connections for, pupils between classroom learning and their self, community and environment.​

What was the impact?​

Staff have reported they are reinvigorated and children are motivated when learning outdoors.

They have also reported improvements in children’s vocabulary and writing attainment.

Wider achievement was recognized with all P1 children completing the RSPB Wild Challenge, P4 children gaining the Heritage Hero Award and P7 children achieving the John Muir Award.

This programme gave parents opportunities to engage with children and to discover the potential for outdoor learning. Parents stated that the children were more motivated to talk at home about their daily activities and share their learning.