Scottish Outdoor Education Centres – SROI Method

Scottish Outdoor Education Centres (SOEC) is a Scottish charity, enabling people to take part in outdoor education activities through a variety of programmes.

Scottish Outdoor Education Centres logoThese programmes include the 5 day ‘Transition’ programme, which is designed to aid the move from primary to secondary school for children, by increasing independence and awareness to aid adjustment to a new environment. Different learning focuses are applied in SOEC’s 5 day Residential Outdoor Learning programmes, such as increasing self awareness and team work skills, depending on the type of programme, age and level. As part of their charitable objectives, SOEC work with a range of ages and abilities, providing challenges to children and young people resulting in the development of valuable skills.

As part of the Scottish Curriculum for excellence, confidence is found to be an important component for young people in terms of their development. SOEC have found that outdoor learning methods can be used in order to help instil confidence in young people, where it can be lacking. SOEC wanted to develop in this area and teamed up with the Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing, to better understand interventions to improve confidence and to understand how they might improve their work to enhance development capability.

The SROI was undertaken in order to examine the outcomes generated from SOEC’s 5 day Residential Outdoor learning programmes, with the aim to expand service provision and increase capacity. The SROI examined outcomes experienced by service users, which included pupils, young carers and pupils requiring extra support, in addition to other stakeholders. In order to measure the outcomes experienced by service users, financial proxies were selected for the SROI analysis to value ‘softer’ outcomes, such as confidence and resilience, communication skills and changes to disruptive/difficult behaviours. SOEC used a variety of methods to engage with their stakeholders to ascertain what they experienced, through discussions between teachers and centre managers, feedback forms and surveys and working with the Centre for Confidence to contribute to the training of SOEC tutors.

The SROI was able to examine the behaviours of 3 young people who came to SOEC from the same school: 2 with restricted diets and one who had determined to be mute in school.

Dave Spence, Chief Executive of SOEC, says “…This behaviour was clearly an impediment to learning as well as personal and social development and of great concern to parents and teachers. Within a few hours of being on their SOEC residential experience, 2 were eating a wide range of healthy food types and the other was singing in the shower and her teachers joked, they “could not shut her up if they wanted to.”"

“However through the SROI we were able to scrutinise these cases in more detail and discovered that 2 of these young people had been attending regular meetings with specialists (educational psychologist and dietician) both for a period of 6 years, with no noticeable improvement. It is perhaps worth noting too that the other young person with a restricted diet was not displaying behaviour sufficient to warrant additional support, yet it was clearly of concern. It is also worth contemplating how with less money in the economy there will be more pupils in this category in the future. The residential experience was clearly the trigger for change and enabled teachers to take advantage of that change.”

“This part of the SROI led to 2 big changes in the way SOEC works.  Firstly, SOEC believe it has confirmed their view of a new approach to outdoor learning. We term this Intelligent Outdoor Learning and it recognises that effectiveness and added value derive from 3 things working together: motivating outdoor activities; programmes designed to deliver clear learning and PSD outcomes; and a supporting, caring and friendly ethos in an away from home setting. The fact is too often an emphasis is placed on adventure activities while the importance of the other 2 aspects is diminished. But it is unlikely that activities alone would have triggered behaviour changes.  The issue of triggering changes in behaviour is of high importance to teachers, politicians and others. Teachers and decision-makers need to be aware of this example which exposes the essential interaction of different factors for changes to be triggered.

Secondly, in actual fact, it is not unusual for SOEC staff to see young people displaying these behaviours.  Such changes are often triggered at SOEC Centres but in the past had been largely done with little further consideration.  SOEC will now raise these issues with schools prior to them coming to us and hopes to work closely with visiting teachers to monitor for behaviour changes more closely.  We have seen that teachers are delighted when changes are triggered and are pleased to be able to come in behind the change, to support it and to embed desired behaviours. This is an important ‘next step’ that requires a measure of tact and sophistication if the desired behaviour is to be embedded successfully. We believe this will more effective if teachers are aware of the opportunity beforehand and can learn from each other as to how best to follow up. We hope to set up a website area where teachers can discuss and share their experiences.  Therefore as a result of the SROI, SOEC are looking for ways to ensure this important outcome is better understood and recorded.”

The final ratio calculated showed that every £1 invested in this activity brings a social return of £11.02.

The benefits of using SROI, to SOEC’S 5-day outdoor residential learning programmes, include being able to demonstrate the change experienced by young people as a result of attending the programmes, which contributed to the culmination of the above ratio.

Through the evident development of confidence and resilience in young people by attending the programmes, development capability can be enhanced when demonstrating their delivery of objective and national outcomes.

“For SOEC, this was important confirmation and third party endorsement that we were doing what we set out to achieve.  Bottom-line is that it is relatively easy for any organisation to say they can produce benefits and are effective but it is a different matter if evidence can be produced to that effect.” Dave says. “SOEC believes this work deserves more widespread recognition and independent third party endorsement is essential.”