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Holy Family

Catholic Primary School

Living, Loving, Learning Together

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LOTC/Forest School

Learning Outside of the Classroom at HFS

What does LOtC at Holy Family School look like?

As a Gold Mark school, we have further developed our LOTC journey to embrace Forest School  at Holy Family School.  This further demonstrates a commitment to learning in and with nature, in order to  support social, emotional, physical and positive mental well-being in our learners.  The natural skills that they acquire, develop teamwork, language skills, confidence, problem solving, risk assessing and resilience.  The aim at HFS is to enable our learners to develop a positive growth mindset to help them in their academic development in class too. Our creative approach encourages enrichment and spiritual connectiveness in line with our aims in Religious Education. 


Aim (Intent)

At Holy Family School, we work closely with the organisation, LOtC (Learning Outside of the Classroom and Beyond).  In the past, we held the Silver Quality Mark from the Council for Learning Outside of the Classroom.  This is because we are committed to helping all of our children to thrive in National Curriculum areas beyond the classroom walls.  This means that our children work out of the classroom to access wider learning in our school grounds, within our school building, with internal visits, by ,linking up online to external providers and through external visits and residentials.  Indeed, during the Covid lockdown in schools, we had a visit from the Braintree and Witham Times, to cover the way we had chosen to work safely with the children of key workers.  On the parent page of our website there are parental feedback messages received at this time and throughout the time their child has been educated at Holy Family School.


How do we do this?

The LOtC have gathered much research to suggest that children learn find learning inspiring and positive when it happens beyond their classroom.  For example, children can learn to use adjectives to describe a setting in their story writing, if they spend time in that setting.  Therefore, time spent in our woodland area can inspire writing.  Exploring the nature garden and discovering mini beasts will generate a greater understanding of habitats in science.  Learning to read Ordinance Survey map symbols will feed an enquiring geographer’s mind.  Setting up practical orienteering within our school grounds can be expanded off site.  We link up with the Essex Country Parks to facilitate this. 


We invite established visitors in to talk to the children so that the children connect with the wider community.  These visitors include religious visitors, CAFOD, Witham Foodbank, local authors, Witham Librarians, RSPB volunteers, and a local bee keeper to name but a few.  We also try to link up with specialists and experts in curricular areas who come in to teach or to provide a rich on site 'trip' experience.  These include Mrs Ruddock, our music specialist, Stephen from Victrix, a historical visitor and Adrian Hall, an outdoor learning expert and explorer.  In addition to this, we link virtually with many organisations, which enable our children to receive an enriched learning experience and an ability to connect with the wider community and wider world.  During Science Week for example, we linked up with Essex Farmers so that children could follow live events on the farm.  We are committed to educating children about sustainability and caring for our natural world and all of our virtual work connects to our commitment to Laudato Si, the message communicated to us from Pope Francis. 


We constantly review and refresh our approach to learning outside of the classroom and currently, we have been creating a Forest School and providing training for staff, to enable our children to have increased  enriching learning opportunities and to develop a  growing connection with nature.  The feedback from our children is very positive.


All learning requires a lot of work with children to support memory recall and deepening understanding in a subject area.  At Holy Family School, our current target modern foreign language is Spanish.  Using our vocabulary in active games to play ‘human bingo’ enables our children to hold onto their language acquisition and develop further.


Studying shadows in a real life setting outside and using measuring skills, embeds learning in science within the topic of Light.  Children nurture and harvest our own ‘home grown’ vegetables.  Sowing seeds and caring for plants, not only generates a greater understanding of germination but then meeting our visiting bee keeper, opens up a greater understanding of pollination. 


Our staff aim to take learning outside if the delivery of curricular areas can be as good or even better in the natural environment.  In addition, we move beyond the school grounds.  Our local area study involves a trip to Witham library, a talk about local history, field work to look at land use, an exploration of the water cycle and more.  We link our off-site trips to our curricular areas.  This could involve studying rocks with the RHS geology expert at Hyde Hall or making Saxon soup in Danbury Park.  It may also involve climbing the historic stairways at Layer Marney Tower.  Experiencing different periods through re-enactments supports our learners.  Taking part in District Sports to represent the school at a higher level in athletics is just one other way to excel outside at Holy Family School.


How does this help our children?

At Holy Family School, we are committed to the health and well-being of all children.  The natural environment enables children to experience learning at a different level.  This can have a very positive impact on a child.  Happiness and well-being are the essential ingredients to help a young mind thrive.  We continually re-visit what we are doing and are informed by our children.  They have told us that learning outside helps them to learn and feel more relaxed.  We know, as educators, that this promotes a positive growth mindset, integral to thriving during the primary years.


As a result of the positive feedback received from our staff and children, we are currently embarking on a journey to bring Forest School to Holy Family School.  This is evolving and we hope it will enable children to become happy, resilient individuals, open to learning a range of new skills in nature.


RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch - weekend of 27, 28, 29th January 2023.  Please join in.  Your class teacher will send information to you.  We can't wait to receive your results.

Holy Family School have been working closely with our local library to launch the reading challenge.  Today, Erica, our librarian, joined us in assembly to congratulate all children who took part.  Erica also reminded the children about other events held at our library.  These include the Lego club on Wednesdays after school, the arts and crafts club each Saturday (including holiday times) and regular board game activities, which include being able to book out a game and even microbits, for those children who enjoy coding.


During the autumn term each year, every class at Holy Family School takes part in our local area study.  During our local area walks we hope to visit the library and hear all about the history of the building and how it has changed over the years.  We will send reminders about how to join the library so that your child can dip into using the variety of books, DVD's, audiobooks and much more.  



God's Natural Gifts

Around the World Forest Day March 2024

Catholic Social Teaching and The RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch. With Shristi the sun bear, we are showing that we care. By tracking the number of birds in our area, the RSPB can make sure that they reach out to birds who may be at risk.

Forest School and the Changing Season

In September, we enjoyed our assembly about the importance of bees in God's natural world. Today, our local bee keeper, Pat, joined us to view our honey bee colony in the Forest School. She will help us to relocate them at Cressing Temple Barns so that they can be cared for and nutured in a larger bee hive.

Autumn 2023 in the Forest

In July 2023, Holy Family School received the prestigious GOLD Award to mark our commitment to Learning Outside of the Classroom and beyond.  We are all delighted to share this news with you.

Visitors and visits

Fingeringhoe Wick Wildlife Trust Trip Year 3

Year 5 are working on a climate action project which involves collaboration with Essex County Council Climate Action group, the Wilderness Project and the Ernest Cook Trust.  During the last 5 lessons, during the Autumn term 2022, the children have researched and planned how to become more sustainable in our school community.  The focus has been the outdoor environment - this was chosen by the children.  Shortly, we hope to welcome Charlie from our local garden supply unit, Oliver's Nurseries, along with Terri and her colleagues from the Wilderness Project.  This will form our final session where supplies, sourced through funding, will be integrated into our environment.  We hope to also welcome The Witham and Braintree Times and The Essex Chronicle to celebrate the culmination of our project.  The children have lots of work, opinions and knowledge to share.  Please watch this space.

Mrs Lonergan, Mrs Milward, Mrs Crane and Year 5 Children

The RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch is about to be launched again (28th, 29th and 30th January 2022).  Your child will be receiving information via an assembly led by Mrs Lonergan.  Your child's teacher will be communicating with you so that you can join in this event as a family during the weekend of 28th January.  Thank you to all of you in the school community who contribute to this each year.  In doing so, you are supporting the RSPB.

Stone Age to Iron Age Year 3 Hunter Gatherer Role Play and Recount Writing

CAFOD and the Universal Church: Comparing our lives to the lives of others overseas

January 2021 UK Covid 19 Lockdown:  We have moved to home learning for most children.  The Home Learning section on the class pages has lots of outdoor learning activities.  Please see this year's plan for the Big Garden Bird Watch for the RSPB.  Please also try to take some time out of the day to watch a joyful episode of the BBC's Winter Watch.  If you have missed any episodes this week (BBC2 8pm), you can watch again on I Player.  Details below.  Enjoy!

Mrs Lonergan

Geography fieldwork, the local area and urban and rural landscapes inspired by our work on the art of L Lowry

Tweet of the Week:  Why not keep up with birdwatching even though we may have more demands on our time now.  I would love to hear from anyone who uses the bird identifier on the outdoor learning page of the website (curriculum/outdoor learning) , to spot some of our feathered friends.  Please email me via Mrs Buet in the office.

Thank you!

Mrs Lonergan


Week Beginning 1st June

Nature Watch: What can we see in June?

Home schooling resources for all children - outdoor learning and eco schools

Week Beginning 18th May 2020

Curriculum Intent:  Outdoor Learning at HFS
Design Technology:  Year three have been busy working on their landscape garden design project.  Our Japanese gardens will soon be ready to view.  We were busy gathering outdoor materials to add to our miniature gardens today.  Look out for our photographs here or on our class page.

Landscape Design - a DT project

Art in Nature: Gathering objects for Japanese garden designs

During September and October, our school has been busy studying the local area in geography.  Watch this space for some photographs from KS1 and KS2.

Working with the community: Aldi sponsoring the RSPB to work with schools

Year 2 have been re-enacting events in the lives of significant people from the past

Year 1 have been busy outside doing their English work.  Watch this space.
Year 5 have been busy doing their Science and English outside.  Watch this space.

Frog Alert! Spring is here and the frogs are jumping for joy! Have a look at the pond.

At Holy Family School, we aim to encourage children to learn in a variety of ways.  Research suggests that children benefit from learning outside and our children say that this type of learning helps them to remember and recall information.  They enjoy outdoor learning opportunities.  Our staff try to use the outside environment in some lessons and we reach out to other agencies such as the Essex Park Rangers, to experience the curriculum through a range of on site experiences and school trips.
The Big Schools' Birdwatch:  Holy Family School are taking part in the RSPB's annual event.  Classes will receive a bird identification sheet and a tally chart to complete.  We will give our results to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and they will use this to find out which birds are doing well in the wild and which ones need more support.  Classes are finding out how to help the birds.  Year Two made some bird feeders with seeds and lard today to help the birds to keep up their energy during this cold spell.

Making a Bird Cafe

Binoculars   Many children have expressed an interest in owning their own pair after using our school supplies to birdwatch as part of the Big Garden Birdwatch challenge.  Our were purchased from Mil-tec  Most outdoor suppliers will stock a starter set but any RSPB centre supplies a pack to use on site which includes binoculars if you are planning a visit.

English Creative Writing and the Outdoor Inspiration

Roasty, toasty time in Foundation Class

Scaffolding Writing: Sequencing events from Samuel Pepys diary in year two

Music and Performance at HFS: Assembly rehearsal in Year Two

Story Writing: Settings and Characters for Traction Man Series

October 2017: Around the World: ENGLAND (Year 3)

October 2017 - Introduction to Maths of the Day: Active Maths - Year 3

Outdoor Learning - map reading skills and Geography with Mr Hall

Understanding Hinduism - Religious Education

Tag Rugby and Team Building in year three

We have been learning outside in Religion.  Please see our class page.
Year three have been making human timelines and using an applying knowledge of timelines in small groups in the playground.  This resulted in a much clearer understanding of the time relating to the Stone Age through to the Bronze Age in history.


We had a great day in the entire school, celebrating our chosen modern foreign language.  Thank you Mrs Sanderson for some great language activities.Thank you all for the support with such wonderful outfits and to our kitchen staff for a tasty menu.  The outdoor learning game was a big favourite with many children commenting on how much they enjoyed matching up words in English and French in a fun way.  This was one of many activities enjoyed on the day.  More photographs to follow shortly.

Mrs Lonergan MFL and Outdoor Learning Lead

Year 3 Pirate Day

Year 6 around the camp fire




Year 4 Pond Dipping