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For Better S.E.N.D. and S.E.B.D. Outcomes - Come Outside!

Posted by Gemma Long on Jun 12, 2023 10:34:56 AM

Equata Equine Therapy School with 4 Camping Cabins Timber Buildings based at Grafton Underwood, Northampton

When you think back to your school days, what are the good memories that fill your head?

For me, it’s the lessons conducted outdoors in the sunshine, and the classrooms that were stimulating (the art room with its colours or the science labs with all their glorious potential for exploration). 

Very few of our good school memories were made in fusty, stuffy old classrooms - the thought of double maths on a wet January Monday morning haunts me to this day.

Environment really matters. The right environment boosts the quality of learning and general experience.


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Even more so in the case of students with special educational needs.

At Cabins For Schools, we love hearing from schools about how our cabins and outdoor classrooms are making a positive difference and driving a more inclusive environment for pupils with special educational needs.  

Recently, in particular, we are noticing increased interest from schools offering solutions for children with Social Emotional Behavioural Difficulties.

Small Music Room in corner of garden with open doors and guitar, microphone and music equipment


Social Emotional Behavioural Difficulties (SEBD) is something of an umbrella term that covers a broad spectrum of emotional challenges, including complex mental health issues such as anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), adjustment disorders,  and many others.

According to the Special Educational Needs (SEN) code of practice, SEBD can be categorised as a learning difficulty where children and young people demonstrate features of emotional and behavioural difficulties (like hyperactivity or concentration deficit), immature social skills, being withdrawn or isolated, and having a disruptive or disturbing nature. 

The term covers a wide range of educational needs, and can also include children with anxiety, self-harming issues, depression, phobias and other ‘hidden’ behavioural difficulties that are less obvious and harder to identify. 

SEBD does not discriminate, can affect children will all levels of intelligence and abilities, but prevalence does vary according to gender, age and family income level and is higher in socially deprived inner-city areas. It is also more common in boys than girls. This all said, there is no single cause of SEBD, nor is there an obvious link with specific social factors. 

Often, students with SEBD develop learning difficulties because they struggle to cope with school relationships and routines.

For many children, behavioural problems can lead to them being excluded from particular activities which can hamper learning and create a downward spiral of worsening behavioural and learning difficulties. 

Outdoor / SEN Cabin

Cabins For Schools building with headteacher and red ribbon with schoolkids grand opening

Creating a nurture room is one way that schools are addressing SEBD and a number for Cabins for Schools buildings have been installed with this in mind. We are closely watching their progress, feedback suggests that the natural qualities of the timber builds (the spruce aromas, the airiness, etc) are having a positive impact and that pupils with SEBD are benefitting from having a safe space within the broader school grounds to ‘escape’ to, a place to regroup without feeling like they have been excluded.

Also, studies show that learning and behaviour benefit from a closer-to-nature approach. A Cabins For Schools timber building provides a natural hub for outdoor learning. 

Cabins for Schools Springfield School Forest School with bushcraft activities toasting marshmallows on the BBQ

Nature Deficit Disorder

Author Richard Louv came up with the term nature-deficit disorder, which ‘does what it says on the tin’, when he published “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” in 2005. The term was coined to sum up the effects of spending more time indoors than out in nature, and the publication explores the impact of outdoor learning on children and their development. Attention difficulties and diminished senses are just two of the issues faced by children when they don’t get enough time outdoors.

Since this pivotal publication in 2005, much of the research in this area has focussed on what can be gained by more outdoors time rather than what is lost when more time is spent indoors. 

Cabins For Schools Oakridge School Timber Building Internal image with sliding doors

The key takeaways - spending time with nature makes children more active and attentive. 

A significant body of scientific evidence shows that transforming school grounds into nature-rich environments can have a powerful and positive impact on physical and mental health, social and cognitive skills, creativity, and academic performance. The ability to play, learn and grow on school grounds allows children and young people to be connected to nature. 

In its “The Salzburg Statement for Greening School Grounds & Outdoor Learning”, the Children & Nature Network, in partnership with Salzburg Global Seminar, the International School Grounds Alliance, International Union for Conservation of Nature, #NatureForAll, and the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education and Families, compiled successful approaches from around the world and identified FIVE key reasons for greening school grounds and outdoor learning: PLAY; HEALTH & WELLBEING; CLIMATE RESILIENCE & BIODIVERSITY; COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT; EDUCATION.

Teacher with pupils playing games inside timber school cabin

Nature Rooms = Nurture Rooms

The statement as a whole is worth a read, but let’s focus on the points salient to special educational needs: 

Forest School Cabin 


The research shows that nature-based outdoor play helps stimulate curiosity, creativity, cooperation, and confidence, factors that are all related to life-long success and happiness. Outdoor play also leads to physical and mental development and supports focus and goal setting. 

Green school grounds provide nature connections and areas for children in urban communities, where these may be less accessible. 

Children are more active outdoors, and outdoor play reduces sedentary time, improving health outcomes. Outdoor play was also found to help children develop fine and gross motor skills.

Cabins For Schools Solar Building in playground area with school building in the background


Outdoor learning supports mental, physical, nutritional, and emotional health across all age groups and educational needs. Nature-led school grounds are more inclusive and supportive of children‘s range of needs, neurodiversity, and physicality, furthermore, nature-based outdoor environments can reduce stress and increase relaxation. 

Natural school grounds lead to better social-emotional outcomes and enhance long-term health. 

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Cabins For Schools George Spencer Academy teacher in arctic cabin building with students


Outdoor learning supports many positive education outcomes - for both students and teachers. For kids the development of critical social and emotional learning skills, such as empathy, and it has been shown to enhance self-control, care for others, and independent, self-directed learning. 

Also, time spent in nature helps develop problem-solving abilities, focus, attention span, and executive function skills. Outdoor learning can bring abstract theories to life and emphasises learning by doing.  

Nature-led outdoor learning has been shown to result in higher academic achievement, as well as contributing to improved social skills. 

As an extra bonus outdoor learning can also contribute to teachers’ mental health and well-being who doesn’t love a bit of time in nature?

So, for better SEND and SEBD outcomes, come outside! Only one drawback …   

SEN School teacher tending to the fire inside their BBQ school cabin

Great British Weather...

A lot of the research into the value of outdoor learning has been carried out in countries where the climate is more suited to it! Indeed, of the Children & Nature Network case studies that I alluded to earlier – just one is in the UK.

Our climate is best described as changeable. Setting aside the obvious seasonal variations, even the day-to-day weather can go from cloudy and cool to torrential rain to sweltering sun, across the course of a week. 

Cabins For Schools provide an oasis from whatever the British weather throws your way. We’ll keep you warm in the winter, cool and shaded in the summer and dry on the soggiest of days – even those wet double-maths-January-Mondays! 

Cabins for Schools Springfield School Arctic Cabin BBQ Fire

See For Yourself!

Our website is a rich resource of information and case studies, like George Spencer Academy in Nottingham. Their SEN classroom, “The Cloud”, provides a supportive learning environment for pupils with educational healthcare plans and complex learning needs. Watch our video online to hear positive feedback from the students, head teacher and specialist intervention case worker.

We know how important it can be to see, touch and experience the quality of an outdoor classroom or wooden building, it can help you to visualise the building in your playground and with your students, to this end you can view our cabins on display at either of our show sites in the East and West Midlands. We also exhibit at shows across the year where you can step inside the show cabin and get a feel for the space and quality yourself. 

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Reading Nook School Cabin

Proud To Play A Part In Your Success Story...

We can work with you to ensure all regulations from OFSTED and Building Control are met.

Our buildings are built to last, so you’ll be investing in future intakes, not just your current year groups! With this in mind, we offer a fully comprehensive 10-year guarantee and many components have a 20-30 year life expectancy, with minimal maintenance. (If your school requires a fully maintenance-free option, ask about our Marley cladding on made-to-order Eco School Rooms). 

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In just a generation, schools have made major steps forward. The opportunities afforded to children with special educational needs in my children’s cohort is incomparable to those available to kids I went to school with – I don’t think we shout about this loudly enough. 

A more child centred approach is evolving and outcomes for pupils are improving as a result. From headteachers to school business managers to teachers ‘at the coal face’, everyone involved in this evolution should be extremely proud. 

At Cabins For Schools, we too are very proud to be playing our small part and we would love to talk with you about how we can contribute to your school’s success story.

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Topics: schools, forestschools, cabins for schools, Multi-Function Space For Schools