Mr Paul Curnow, Head of Forest School and Year 3 Form Teacher at Spring Grove School, has been nominated for a prestigious national education award in recognition for his and Spring Grove School’s commitment and passion for learning outside the classroom. Paul now faces a public vote to find out if he will take home the title of Inspiring Educator.

Kim Somerville, Head of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, the charity behind the awards, explains:

“The Outstanding Contribution to Learning Outside the Classroom Awards recognise and celebrates the people and teams who are transforming the lives of children and young people by providing or championing exciting and inspiring learning outside the classroom experiences. We want as many people as possible to vote for their local hero so they can get the credit they deserve.”

Mr Curnow’s passion for outdoor learning, cultivated by his time in the British military, was the inspiration behind the successful introduction of an over-arching Forest School programme at Spring Grove School – an innovation that saw Spring Grove School achieve a UK and Kent first at the start of November 2017 after being recognised as the first independent school in the UK, as well as the first setting of any type in Kent, to be approved by the Forest School Association (FSA) as a recognised Forest School Provider.

So engaged in his love of the outdoors and the benefits that outdoor education can bring, Paul religiously goes the extra-mile, as do all the teachers at Spring Grove School, to ensure that his lessons are always both enjoyable and memorable.  His fun, inspiring and innovative approaches, including survival training, camouflage, wattle-and-daub wall construction as well as route planning and navigating a 10km charity walk to school through the countryside involving the entire school (which raised over £4,000 for the NSPCC) to name but a few, have directly had a positive impact on all the children at the school, especially those in the Reception, Year 3 and Year 4. During important periods of transition for primary aged pupils (EYFS to KS1 and KS1 to KS2), Mr Curnow’s constantly expanding outdoor learning programme has developed and nurtured creativity, confidence, community engagement and self-reliance in the children – a real ‘can-do’ spirit!

As well as offering his time to mentor other local schools with their Forest School programmes, Paul has used many of his sessions to support the community with projects including tree planting, river surveys, ash coppicing and cleaning up the Wye military graves and the local ‘Wye Crown’ monument. Furthermore, his teaching has also inspired other Spring Grove School staff, and even Spring Grove parents, to pursue their own outdoor/Forest School qualifications.

Eager to keep innovating and inspiring, Spring Grove School and Mr Curnow use the environment and what nature provides to its full extent and have now also launched a programme of Beach School sessions for pupils at the School on our local Kent shoreline. Lessons that not only saw the pupils beach cleaning, but also inspired them to launch their own plastic recycling programmes at the school.

Spring Grove School and Paul even pioneered a week of ‘Snow School’ during early March 2018, when the School stayed open despite the poor weather, which witnessed the introduction of a new house-competition, and pupil favourite, in quinzee (snow shelter) building. To see four quinzees (basically igloos) in south east Kent was quite a sight and is a memory we are sure will last a lifetime for staff, parents and pupils alike.

Not content with resting on their laurels, Paul and Spring Grove School have further expanded the Forest School provision this academic year to cover the entire School from Reception to Year 6 and have also established a permanent outdoor learning site. Paul is also working with other members of staff to bring a first beehive to Spring Grove School.

Kim Somerville continues:

“Learning outside the classroom plays such an important role in helping young people to achieve their potential by providing hands-on practical experiences that bring learning to life.  Whether it is through fieldwork, school ground activities such as forest schools, educational visits to museums, galleries, farm activity centres, or cultural expeditions abroad, LOtC can build lasting, positive learning experiences.”

Votes can be cast via the CLOtC website (Voting closes on Friday 26th October 2018): 


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