Most teachers who are delivering Outdoor Education in WA schools would now be acquainted with the recent policy changes to seriously impact student/teacher ratios in outdoors-based activities for schools. These changes sit alongside the requirement of additional qualifications for teachers to deliver learning in these activities. Although well intended and reportedly in response to what has been referred to as: “numerous lucky escapes’, the publication of the Outdoor education activities for public schools procedures for the 14 activities in October by the Department of Education (DoE) has been albeit, poorly received.
Consternation has largely been directed to the consultation processes and the perception that consultation with ‘industry’ has out-muscled consultation with education. This is to the point whereby industry regulations have superseded the value that is offered through a scaffolded educational context, which prepares students for an activity over a number of weeks before partaking in an outdoors event. This is opposed to the context of industry, whereby individuals can partake in a one-off event and/or activity, sometimes over the course of a day or a weekend. Teachers are also very disappointed that years of teaching in this context and the wisdom of experience is now being ignored.
The Outdoor education activities for public schools procedures now sit underneath the Duty of Care Policy and can be found here. The 14 activities with specific requirements, ratios, qualifications and procedures are included within the outdoor education procedures.
In response and in representing the HPE community, ACHPER WA has been forthright in voicing member concerns and advocating for change. This has led to the actioning of a transition period by DoE for 2019. The one year transition period is intended to allow teachers to gain the required qualifications and for schools to adequately budget. More particularly and if required, schools will utilise the transition period from 1 January 2019 until 31 December 2019 to progressively implement the requirements of these procedures. During this transition period, where schools have not implemented or are in the process of implementing these procedures, they must follow the previous Outdoor Education and Recreation Activities for Public Schools Policy for any planned activities.
One teacher commented to ACHPER WA that the budget for OE at his school would skyrocket as a consequence of ratio changes and that future programs were unsustainable. ACHPER is continuing to work closely with other interested parties in preparing a position statement to the Minster for Education.
ACHPER WA has been organising a range of PL events, which can be found here