Making memories and learning skills in the great outdoors with Swanbourne House

Swanbourne House is a co-educational boarding and day school for 3 - 13 year-olds set in 55 acres of park and woodland in the Buckinghamshire countryside, just 20 minutes from Central Milton Keynes. Since new Head Jane Thorpe was appointed in 2018, the school has moved away from a traditional and outdated education model to a cross-curricular, collaborative and relevant approach, teaching skills that provide the qualities needed to thrive in today’s complex, ever-changing world. Part of this approach is a commitment to helping children thrive in the great outdoors.

Andrew Kirk, Head of Outdoor Learning and Enrichment at Swanbourne House, tells us more: “Providing the students with the opportunity to explore and learn skills in an outdoor setting is a hugely important part of life here at Swanbourne. We see children thriving in the outdoors with the freedom our grounds provide. Being in the woods, making dens, learning bushcraft, sleeping under the stars and enjoying food cooked on the fire are the things great memories are made of, but also help the children develop team working skills, problem solving, grit, determination and resilience.”

The school has an outdoor classroom, nestled in the woods in the grounds, that hosts all sorts of enrichment activities and lessons. This is a hugely popular place for students, made up of a permanent tepee with benches circling a fire pit. This space is not just for traditional outdoor learning, with the classroom used for any lesson, maths and geography often take place in this woodland setting too. It’s a place for social time and relaxing as well, with pupils enjoying making hot chocolate and toasting marshmallows on the fire.

“We like to send children home muddy! Exploring the outdoors and experiencing the natural world is encouraged – they climb trees (only as high as Mrs Thorpe is tall!), take part in ecology clubs, explore the woods and get out whatever the weather. With children as young as three we offer progressive levels of outdoor challenge that combine discovery, experimentation, independence, social and emotional awareness and understanding risk.”

The outdoor programme extends beyond the grounds to include hiking in the peak district, canoeing on the River Wye and trips to the New Forest.

Andrew continues: “Learning outdoors is incredibly important for personal development – when the curriculum is taken outside it can improve attainment, increase engagement and enhance personal attributes that help pupils thrive as team players and individuals. We’re incredibly proud of the impact our outdoor learning programme continues to have.”

To arrange a private tour call 01296 720264 or email Find out more at