The Effects of Play & Outdoor Learning on a P2 Class during a Pandemic

Created on: 13 Jan 2022 | Last modified: 20 Apr 2023

PDF – The Effects of Play & Outdoor Learning on Social Skills, Mental Health & Literacy Attainment in a P2 Class during a Pandemic

Word Document -  The Effects of Play & Outdoor Learning on Social Skills, Mental Health & Literacy Attainment in a P2 Class during a Pandemic

Julie Bell


During the COVID-19 global pandemic of 2020-2021, there was a nationwide lockdown.  Parents did not go to work and children did not go to school.  As children returned to school, the focus for Education Recovery was on Literacy, Maths and Health and Wellbeing.

Play was to be a focus for Health and Wellbeing in P1 and P2 as children learned to socialise and collaborate with one another.  However, the play pedagogy (to immerse children in play and call small groups out for teaching, and to allow children to choose to complete tasks throughout the week) is an educational hot potato.  This play pedagogy is starting to take precedence over traditional teaching and learning and this has become controversial.

Another aspect of Education Recovery has been to take learning outdoors.  This is to limit COVID transmission but also to help mental health and wellbeing.

Therefore, this study aimed to investigate how structured and focussed Play and Outdoor Learning opportunities affect the health, socialisation skills and literacy attainment of children in a P2 class. 

This research used data from one P2 class of children.  It collected a variety of quantitative and qualitative data from the children, their parents and from teachers.

The research found that Play and Outdoor Learning did support the attainment of literacy however the main factor for literacy attainment was pedagogy.  This study shows that children learned literacy using a traditional approach; the teacher taught, the children work and then the children were allowed free play.  The results showed very significant improvements in the children’s attainment pre and post interventions using this pedagogy.

Nevertheless, the Play Approach seems to dominate the focus of P1 and P2 learning.  Unfortunately, however, many professionals feel that this is not a positive approach to teaching and learning and many would prefer to work at different stages of the school.  This is a significant issue for staffing and stress.  It also has an impact on Initial Teacher Training.  Many believe that with a new pedagogy there needs to be appropriate resources too.  With this approach, a significant number of additional adults with the class group are required and there is a need for material resources too.

The impact on the Curriculum is considerable.  Teachers do not understand how to plan, teach, assess, and manage this new approach.  They have not been trained to do this.  Teachers are confused; there is the need to follow the Curriculum Guidelines, support children to achieve a level, ensure the 7 principles of curriculum design is delivered and also now that learning should child-led and child-initiated.

A clear understanding, guidance and accountability between HMIe, school management and staff are required along with clear expectations and further research if a play approach is to be effective.

How can I use this resource?

This report offers insight into the implementation of play pedagogy and outdoor learning in specific contexts. Practitioners will find the methods and research strategy effective for shaping their own investigations into this topic, and draw on the author’s initial conclusions to develop their own interventions.