Grounds for Improvement Secondary Action Research Programme: Final report

Rickinson, Mark


Over the last three years (2001-2004), Learning through Landscapes (LTL), the national school grounds charity, has been working in partnership with Sport England and the New Opportunities Fund to deliver a targeted programme of school grounds improvements throughout England. With funding of 4.6m [British pounds], the Grounds for Improvement Programme has involved some 350 schools nationally with the aim of improving the use, design and management of their grounds for the benefit of the schools and their local communities.

As part of this programme, a group of six secondary schools has participated in a more concentrated scheme called the Grounds for Improvement Secondary Action Research Programme (SARP). These schools received the highest level of award from the Grounds for Improvement Programme (50,000 [British pounds] each), to enable their staff and students to develop and implement a new approach to school grounds improvement through action research supported by LTL facilitators. The research aspects of SARP were coordinated by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), and this document outlines the insights that have emerged from this work over the past three years. It builds upon earlier interim reports produced by NFER during the programme (Rickinson, 2002; Rickinson et al. 2003a; 2003b).

Aims and Research Questions

The stated aim of SARP was 'to develop and demonstrate the value of a new approach to the education and motivation of young people in secondary schools, through their full and meaningful participation in the design and management of their own school grounds environment'.

More specifically, the programme sought to generate innovative approaches and research-based evidence on improving secondary school grounds in ways that engage and empower young people. This was shaped by two key research questions:

  • How can secondary schools engage their students in school grounds improvement?
  • What are the impacts of school grounds projects on students and schools?

These questions took account of the fact that very little research has been undertaken on school grounds improvement in the secondary school context. Most of what is known either relates to primary schools, or simply has not been documented. 

Pedagogical Area
  • place-based education, environment as integrating context (EIC)
Subject Area
  • physical education, outdoor recreation
Delivery Area
  • school based
Participant Area
  • school
  • community
Age Area
  • elementary (6-11 years old)
  • middle school (12-14 years old)