OUTDOOR spaces continue to play an increasingly important role in the education of Wee County children.

With a wealth of opportunities on the doorstep, education staff at Clackmannanshire Council had been placing an emphasis on outdoor spaces in education even before coronavirus.

And with the virus on the rise again, and further lockdown restrictions announced just last week, outdoor education is becoming more and more important.

Research has shown that fresh air, UV light and less hard surfaces provide less opportunities for Covid-19 to be transmitted, explained the local authority.

It also supports good physical health and wellbeing, while outdoor learning can also drive up attainment, inspiring curiosity through real world experiences.

Councillor Graham Lindsay, the council's spokesman for education, told the Advertiser: "We want to ensure the children and young people in Clackmannanshire grow up nurtured, safe, respected and able to realise their full potential and we are looking forward to embedding more outdoor learning through our education.

"Our aim is that all children are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society; and value, enjoy, protect and enhance their environment."

As part of outdoor programmes, children, young people and their families have enjoyed activities at Gartmorn Dam.

The Wee County beauty spot is ideal for a variety of fun activities such as archery, bush- and campcraft, fishing, cycling and geocaching.

Learners can also take part on awards programmes such as John Muir, Dynamic Youth and the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Education officers have also been working with organisations such as Thrive Outdoors and Columba 1400 to support schools in taking initiatives forward.

Some schools are very well placed for outdoor education in ideal surroundings, such as Muckhart Primary School in rural Clacks.

Over the years, outdoor education at the small school has become a "way of life", explained headteacher Ms Lesley McGlinchie.

Teachers arriving to work at the school are trained up to deliver outdoors while initiatives have also been enjoying the support of the parent council.

One benefit reported by teachers is that some children who may not do well in a traditional classroom setting can truly come out of their shell when outdoors.

While Muckhart is ideally placed, schools in urban settings are also looking to make the most of opportunities.

They include Redwell Primary in Alloa, where the school grounds provide plenty of opportunities.

There is a pond, a forest area and more for children to get creative.

The school has stepped outdoor learning up since the return this year, working with children and families to grow fruit and vegetables.

Each class is also looking after their very own planters outside, growing what they require to develop their skills at their stage of learning.

Parents and carers can visit clacks.gov.uk/coronavirus/outdooredcv for more information on outdoor learning.