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Cross-sector collaboration: enabling an integrated approach to schools’ use of outdoor environments

Veitch, Sarah Francis (2019) Cross-sector collaboration: enabling an integrated approach to schools’ use of outdoor environments. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

Urbanisation exerts pressures on natural resources and creates barriers between people and outdoor environments. Connecting with outdoor environments is important for human development and well-being. However, many urban children do not have regular access to outdoor environments, which may lead to them missing important developmental opportunities. There are opportunities to include the use of outdoor environments throughout the primary curriculum and learning theories. Despite this, the use of outdoor environments is still lacking throughout primary education. The aim of this research is to develop a theoretical contribution addressing ways to improve opportunities for outdoor use in mainstream primary education. The objective is to undertake multiple best practice case studies incorporating a mixed-method and grounded theory approach. This will help to address a theoretical gap present in outdoor education research that identifies the barriers to facilitating schools outdoor use. The case study research comprises a two-stage methodological process. Firstly, document analysis identifies factors effecting schools’ use of outdoor environments. These findings develop the initial framework informing case study selection. Secondly, semi-structured interviews collate cross-sector perspectives of opportunities and barriers to schools’ use urban green space. The sectors included comprise primary schools, local authorities, and outdoor education practitioners. The interview data is analysed using thematic classification and relationship analysis. The themes and inter-theme relationships that emerge during the analysis are synthesized to develop a theory that explains the use of outdoor environments by schools. The theory developed by this research asserts that a cross-sector, collaborative approach determines schools’ use of outdoor environments. Development of a conceptual framework illustrates the theoretical contribution. By implementing a cross-sector, collaborative approach, there is potential to overcome the barriers identified within each sector and deliver transdisciplinary objectives, e.g. improved developmental opportunities, community health and increased environmental awareness. By applying socio-ecological systems theory, addressing cross-sector issues as interrelated parts of the same system could present emergent concepts contributing to collective solutions.

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