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S1 E2: SMSC Development, Supporting Teachers and Outdoor Learning with Christian Kitley

Updated: May 16, 2023

The second episode of my new podcast The Subject Leaders Podcast features Christian Kitley, outdoor learning subject leader at Manor Lodge School. He talks about designing curriculum so that it contributes to pupils’ SMSC development and supporting less confident teachers developmentally. He also shares about the outdoor learning curriculum he has developed at his school.

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Below you can find the transcript for this episode of The Subject Leaders Podcast:


Aidan: Our guest is Christian Kitley. Hello, Christian. Thank you for being with us today. How are you?

Christian: Hello, Aidan. Yeah, very well, thank you. Thanks for having me on.

Aidan: Let's start by getting to know you a little bit more then. So who are you? Where can we get in touch with you?

Christian: My name is Christian Kitley. I'm the head of outdoor learning at Manor Lodge School, which is just on the border between Hertfordshire and North London. And if you want to get in touch with me I'm on Twitter @christiankitley.

Aidan: That's nice and simple to remember. Great, thank you. So can you tell us a little bit more about your experience as a primary teacher and as a subject leader?

Christian: Yes, I've been teaching primary for almost ten years now, mainly in key stage two, so I've had classes between year three up to year six. My specialism initially actually was history, so I've led history as a subject. I've now started in the last couple of years leading outdoor learning, which is very much my passion, which I'm sure we'll talk about later. I've also led Duke of Edinburgh at my last school as well, which was really interesting, though not especially a subject. It was an interesting one to lead on and it really crosses into so much of what we do. And I also am a head of house, so I really enjoy the pastoral side of primary school. I think it's so important at this stage of education, so it's something I really enjoy getting my teeth into, really.

Aidan: Would you consider outdoor learning to be your subject specialism or would that be history? What are your favourite subjects to teach?

Christian: I think certainly now outdoor learning. If an outdoor learning teaching position existed when I started teaching, I think I definitely would have gone down that road, as it were. It didn't so I've spent a lot of time doing history, so my first couple of schools led history in those schools from an early age, history has always been a passion and interest of mine, so it was the natural progression, really. So I did a three year BA honours at Canterbury Christchurch for my teacher training and that's where I went into history as a specialism. So it's very much been something I've been interested in for a long time. I recently completed my masters at the University of East London, and that's where I've really transitioned more into the outdoor learning side of things, done some really interesting research, or interesting to me, certainly, about outdoor learning, and it's just nudged me in that direction for subject leadership. I’ve always been into the outdoors, my wife and children are all very outdoorsy, and I've always been involved in the Scouts since I was a beaver aged six, started at six, haven't left. Still a leader now. So it's very much a part of my life and I think it's amazing job being a teacher, but it's certainly an amazing job being able to teach that area that you love and just infuse the children with that. So very much a leadership subject here.

Aidan: Great. I can hear your enthusiasm for that coming through. So if theoretically, the curriculum was being slimmed down, which subject would you fight hard to keep?

Christian: Outdoor learning, obviously, at the moment. I think especially post COVID schools are realising, people generally are realising a lot more how important that connection to the outdoors, that connection to nature is. And for lots of children, they will get that at home, they have that at weekends, they have access to nature, but actually, for a lot of children, they don't. And I think we often generalise and say in the cities, but it can be anywhere. You don't have that access to nature or you don't have that knowledge of where to go or the equipment to go. And I think that's so important that we enable every child to have those experiences. And it can be really wide ranging. I think one of the things about outdoor learning that I love is that there's no real definition, per se, of it. I spent many words in my dissertation trying to actually boil down to a description of what it is, and it was hard, but it means so many different things to different people, and I just think it's such a lovely, wide ranging subject that can be taken anywhere, really.

Although I'm afraid I'm going to go back to history and say that if something was to be taken off the curriculum, it should not be history. I think we learn so much about the future from the past and yeah, it's cliché, isn't it? And what I remember from year ten history, being told when I started my GCSEs, but it's true. And not to get political, because this is an education podcast, but a lot of the things going on at the moment, you can look back into history and you can draw parallels, rightly or wrongly, but it's just so important to see what's going on. And it's always going to be a fascinating subject, I think, for most people. But learning from the past, you can't get rid of that in my mind.

Aidan: Great, love that answer and we'll get into more of that outdoor learning stuff that you're obviously bursting with on one of your later questions. What do you love about being a subject leader?

Christian: Being able to share my passion, really. And I would hope that I think most subject leaders are leading subjects that they love, they specialise in, they're passionate about and to be able to just spend pretty much all my time doing that, I love it. I can share my love of the outdoors. I'm very lucky in the school I'm in at the moment in that that is all I teach, I just teach outdoor learning, which I know for most primary teachers is unusual. So I'm very lucky in that sense and just being able to spend all my time outdoors, all my time developing my subject and sharing my passion, hopefully my knowledge and some expertise with children as well. Yeah, I love that. Just being able to give that one area my focus, my pure focus.

Aidan: So you must be very well kitted out with outdoor gear if you spend all of your time out there.

Christian: Very lucky to get yeah, lots of jumpers, lots of layers; I recommend merino wool as a good base layer.

How might subject leaders ensure that their subject's curriculum contributes to pupils SMSC development?

How can subject leaders support less confident teachers in a developmental way?

What kind of advice have you needed to provide to others with regards to their teaching of outdoor learning?

Closing words

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