I've been reading a draft of the Natural Connections Final Report which is a whopping 91 pages – almost as long as the evaluation proforma that Natural England suggested I use to provide my comments on the draft. Needless to say, I should not really comment on what I've seen as it's only a draft and, like fate, is amenable to change. Well, I hope it is.
Helpfully, though whether this was deliberate or not is unclear, the draft that was circulated contained embedded comments by reviewers. Some of these were just as interesting as the report.
One of them – it will hardly be a surprise to anyone – was about nomenclature; that is, whether "LINE" would be meaningful to anyone outwith the cognoscenti. I'd say the answer's obvious. Would "outdoor learning" be better, someone wondered. Well, maybe! I've tried this jargon on some of those mercifully not corralled in 'the field' and they all asked me whether it was being outside that really mattered, or was it what you learned, or did it depend on how natural the natural environment was, or was it pedagogy that really mattered. And there's the rub, as no one can ever decide. It's hardly surprising as the phrase "learning outside the classroom in local natural environments" covers such a huge range of activities – including, presumably, sitting in a garden whilst being indoctrinated. Can you become a more effective terrorist by learning outside or inside? Does anyone know? Not that it matters.
I also wondered whether the report was trying to reach too many audiences. I felt it might be hard going for anyone who wants to cut to the chase and identify the nuggets that might improve practice and organisation – if there are any. These seem to be buried inside a technical report in which a lot of space is taken by explaining and justifying what Natural Connections did / didn’t do. I found this tedious. Even the executive summary is 7 pages long and itself could do with a summary with practice in mind. I'm told this is in hand.
The final report will be published to coincide with the Natural Connections launch on the 14th July. I'm not going to this as I have no faith in NC's ability to organise a meeting effectively. Anyway, I've already taken up too much space in this blog complaining about past efforts – and there's always my blood pressure to think about. A day of calm on the Wiltshire Downs suggests itself as an alternative. See you there, maybe.