John Keble CofE Primary School

Faith In Learning

Head of School: Paul O'Brien

Operation Outdoors

Operation Outdoor Q&A

Q: What is Operation Outdoor? How did Operation Outdoor come about?

A: Operation Outdoor is a project initiated by Cheryl Rickman (on the back of much research into the positive impact of outdoor learning on wellbeing and concentration). It was taken forward with the permission and support of the Executive Head and Head of School, the backing of parents with the support of families and teachers following initial planning, scoping, and consultation events to get the go ahead to proceed.

Operation Outdoor has a dual purpose: 1) to enhance school grounds by creating outdoor classrooms to improve wellbeing, concentration, biodiversity, environmental stewardship & facilities for pupils and 2) provide local residents with improved outdoor facilities for use outside of school hours.

If anyone has missed any of the multiple introductory and update events and would like to meet to understand more about the project, we can happily arrange. However, we hope that this Q&A document will provide the necessary information about the project. If you wish to know more or provide feedback, please do get in touch with us.

Q: What Outdoor Learning Zones have you built and which zones are still to be developed?

At the time of writing we have completed 4 zones, with two more zones set to be completed over thelog seating Spring/Summer term.

The outdoor classrooms completed so far include:

  • The Nature Classroom/Pond Area
  • The Woodland Classroom
  • The Under Tree Classroom with Community Seating/BBQ
  • The Field View Classroom

The outdoor classrooms to be completed over the Spring/Summer term are: pond dipping

  • The Willow Classroom
  • The Amphitheatre Classroom

We are seeking sponsorship and putting on our 4th Treefest event to raise funds for the remaining zone (the Library Garden Reflection Zone) and to finish the Amphitheatre Classroom by putting a pergola over it, to provide more shade.

Q: How much money has been raised and where from

A:  After parent and teacher meetings and input, zones were prioritised and, thanks to a range of sponsorship, grant awards and Treefest fundraising (and the hard work of a small dedicated team to secure/organise these funds) we have raised a grand total of£16,856!

Treefest 2014 - £1800Tesco grant

Treefest 2015 - £2400

Sponsorship of Woodland Zone from Veolia £1000

Hursley Parish Council Grant for BBQ area and Under-Tree Seating £1000

Donation from Sportskool £283

Winchester City Council Grant for Benches for Queen’s 90th Birthday £273

Treefest 2016 £3400

Winchester City Council Grant to Complete Willow Classroom £1700

Tesco Bags of Help Grant for the Field View Classroom - £5,000

Has anyone donated anything, other than cash donations/sponsorship?

A: Yes, we are pleased to say that Lowaters Nursery donated 50 Escallonia to complete the planting of the Circle at the end of the Willow tunnel. Thanks to Charles Carr for arranging. We had a donation of pond plants from Romsey World of Water to give life to the pond and also a donation of timber from BSW.

We are hugely grateful for these kind donations from local companies. Please do check them all out.

How are PTA funds spent? Are they separate to Operation Outdoor funds?

A: Operation Outdoor fundraising is separately organised. The PTA decided when we took on this project that any funds raised for Operation Outdoor would come from additional sources that we otherwise wouldn't have tapped into. As such, Treefest was an additional event added to the regular PTA calendar and of course, the grants have been applied for specifically because Operation Outdoor meets their criteria.

The regular PTA funds (raised via Fete proceeds, Fizz & Quiz, Welcome BBQ & Rounders, Pizza in the Park, cake sales, year R welcome days, and so on) are donated to the school who decide what to tick off their wish-list. As such, these are completely separate from Operation Outdoor funds. For example, the past couple of years has seen much of PTA donation spent on IT equipment (such as interactive display screens and PCs, laptop trolleys with laptops, digital cameras and Raspberry Pi class kits to enable children to build their own computers!)

If you would like to suggest a new fundraising activity or item to fundraise for there are PTA proposal forms available at the office or by emailing

Q: Have you considered the maintenance of the Operation Outdoor zones?

A: Yes. This was a critical point that we made during our early consultation meetings in late 2014, early 2015 before the design phase.

Now that we have completed zones to maintain, between our very own caretaker and Hampshire County Council approved contractors – we can ensure that ongoing maintenance ensures that the pond and other areas are sufficiently sustained. We have purchased a strimmer to keep the pond maintained and would like to thank the parent volunteers for helping build benches, paint benches, strim the pond area, and so on.

Q: How have parents’ ideas been considered?

A: Parent participation was encouraged via various consultation meetings at the start of the project in 2015. The OO team developed plans following visits to other schools, discussion with teachers about what they would teach in such areas and conversations with outdoor classroom experts. Proposed designs and plans were then displayed at parent consultation meetings and at various school events over the course of the year, as well as posting on our Facebook group to invite feedback. 

If you would like to comment about anything OO related, please do contact us via email, chat in the playground or attend our termly PTA meetings. Thank you to all those who have approached us with ideas about sponsorship and other matters so far this year.

Q: Are ‘artificial outdoor environments’ really necessary?

A: Yes. Research into outdoor classrooms has shown that these specially-developed areas facilitate outdoor learning and teachers are far more likely to take lessons outdoors when environments such as this exist than if they don’t. 

Q: How have zones been prioritised?

A:  We initially ordered the zones based on a priority rank that the teachers completed during consultancy meetings with the teaching staff early on in the project. For example, the pond was agreed to be a top priority along with the Field View Classroom (due to close proximity to the school) whilst the Willow Tunnel Circle Classroom at the far end of the classroom was given the lowest priority (due to it being further away than the others).

However, as the opportunity arose to secure some bushes and volunteer time we seized that opportunity to make a start and involve the children in planting some willow to kick start the project via that zone. We have recently secured funding via a Winchester City Council grant to lay the grass matting and build the seating to complete that zone over the spring.

Similarly, the order of zones has shifted based on the areas which ticked the right boxes from a grant funding and sponsorship perspective. For example, we presented all the zones available for sponsorship to Veolia and they chose Zone 2 – The Woodland Classroom to sponsor, so that was completed before the higher priority Field View Classroom. The same is true of Zone 3 – The Tree Classroom with Under-Tree Seating and BBQ. This was completed because, according to feedback from Hursley Parish Council, this was the most likely zone to secure a grant from them, (due to the community seating and BBQ element).

We have therefore had to be flexible in selecting which zones are completed first, based on funding opportunity.

Thank you for the continued support and encouragement.

Kind regards

The Operation Outdoor team