The Tudors



Owlbut's World of Learning is the brainchild of Richard Rowland, who has spent nearly 40 years working in the learning sector, helping thousands improve themselves, ranging from senior managers to young people with emotional and behavioural problems. During this time he has written or contributed to over a dozen books on education. This is some of the nice things people have said about his work.

The concept of this resource comes from his experiences over those years and his own personal learning adventures. The idea of learning through reality, by seeing, even second-hand, is not new but modern technology allows us, as the learning providers, to do so much more than our predecessors.

Richard has always believed that the personality of the teacher has a major impact on learning. How much better can it then be if that teacher can use a resource which also has a personality. This has been achieved with Owlbut's World of Learning.

This website has so many different ways that it can be used in nearly all areas of any curriculum. It is truly cross-curricula although built around history and geography. It can easily develop reading and literacy skills and the "The World" section lends itself to improving learning and familiarity with Maths and statistical representation. Let Richard set the background in more detail.

owlbutI suppose this idea of "reality learning" (learning from a real live source other than a teacher) came about in 1985 when I made my first journey along the entire coastline of Great Britain. It all began because I and my then wife decided to take our two children out of school for a year and show them more of the country that they called home.

The adventure started on June 29. We bought a motorhome and, together with two helpers, packed in the possessions we would need for a year (the rest was put into storage), and set off on what turned out to be an amazing experience. Most of the time we stayed in rented holiday accommodation, the motorhome being used only in emergencies.

Our children were 7 and 10 at the time and even now, as middle-aged parents themselves, they remember so much of the adventure. As well as writing a daily diary, their formal education was structured into each week but the breadth of their reality learning, the depth of their actual knowledge, far exceeded that of any of their peers, They returned to normal schooling the following year with no harm done and duly completed their education. I, too, returned to my career, still working in education. In the current coronavirus pandemic I can categorically state that a year out of school for children at primary level does not have to cause any harm at all.

owlbutIn 1993, while running a computer course for a group of primary school teachers, the story of my first trip came up. All the teachers agreed that it would have been a wonderful learning adventure for their pupils to have followed.

It was only a suggestion but a year later I was off again, this time with sponsorship from ASDA, BP and NatWest. Whilst the concept of travelling around the coast remained, the journey was to be followed by 50 primary schools around the country by way of a 12 page weekly newsletter with six or seven, loose, photographs each week. That resource was featured in a Times Educational Supplement article in November 1994, which I have transcribed here. It was also featured in a series of articles in a magazine called Holiday UK, which, it would appear, has since ceased publication.

Again it was a family adventure. I had remarried since that first journey and had a 2-year-old son but we were also joined by my eldest son, Dave, from my first marriage, who had been on that first trip and was now 17 years old. The fifth member was another 17 year old boy, a friend of Dave’s.

In retrospect, I will admit that I almost took on too much in attempting to produce a weekly 12 page newsletter as well as a series of monthly articles and go out and visit all the sites along the coast and take the photos and, horror of horrors, actually have to have them developed and reprinted 50 times. Initially the schools were receiving newsletters one month after I had visited an area but, toward the end of the trip, my mother was taken to hospital and, after a very short stay, sadly died. I managed to get home in time to visit her several times and then stayed to organise the funeral. However, once I returned to my travels, 3 weeks had passed, and the remainder of the trip was even more stressful, having only a week between visits and producing the newsletters.

Over the following two years I provided the resource to parents who had chosen, or been forced, to take their children out of mainstream school. Although it was no longer "live", I still received many letters of thanks from parents who found it incredibly useful.

In 2001, over a period of 28 incredibly hectic days, I made a third trip at the request of a US travel magazine trying to convince its readers that, despite the ongoing foot and mouth epidemic, England still was a green and pleasant land and well worth a visit. My, by then, 9-year-old son who suffered from speech dyspraxia and who I had taught at home since he was 5, accompanied me. I'm sure his love of history, he is now a published short story writer, has a Masters degree in Law and History and has also been called to the Bar, stems from using material from that second journey to help him learn history and geography when reading and writing were impossible. He worked tirelessly on his speech therapy and also acted as my "calculator" for my end of year accounts, adding up all figures in his head. Maths was easy for him. Another example, in my eyes, of a child for whom early education out of school was a distinct benefit.

owlbutThen in 2010, after nearly 8 years out of the country working with schools in Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, I met up with the same Doug Brown quoted by the TES. In a wide ranging discussion Doug, by then principal of Engaines School, mentioned that the earlier project was way ahead of its time, even ahead of the BBC Coast programme by some ten years but as I had been out of the country travelling since 2002, I hadn't even heard about Coast. Doug said the whole concept was ideal for the internet and gave me the idea to someday have one more trip.

And that was always my dream, my hope. Sadly situations over which I have had little control have not allowed that to be. Everything was in place to begin in September 2020 but the coronavirus pandemic put an end to that. As things stand it would be impossible to plan for a September 2021 start, these things take time and stability to arrange, and so 2022 would be the first possible start. It may happen and I would never say never but I needed to find a way to provide innovative and unique earning material without such a journey. This website, I believe, provides that.

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THE LATE DOUG BROWN - a source of support and inspiration.

I first met Doug when the project was just beginning in September 1994. As soon as he heard my ideas he was on-board and I talked to him several times leading up to the start of our travelling in the October. Indeed a week before we set off BBC Radio Essex came out to the school for a morning and recorded a piece about the project. Doug was interviewed and was really enthusiastic and a couple of interviews were made with the children. It was all great fun.

Once my journey started Engaines got engaged in a big way as you can see from the article in the Times Educational Supplement of November 1994 which I talked about earlier. Remember we only started in October and already Doug had devised all these activities which I know, from correspondence, his pupils loved.

We lost touch for almost 15 years but, after I returned to England from my travels abroad, I phoned some of the schools who had been involved in that 1994-95 Project. When I phoned Engaines and gave the receptionist my name she put me through to the now principal of the school and his first words were, “I know that name, is it who I think it is? Are you man who went round the coast some years ago?” I agreed I was, actually I still am, and we arranged to meet the following week.

When we did he wanted to know what I had been doing and then made the life-changing comment, “you know you were so ahead of your time. That project would be superb on the internet”. Our conversation continued, he told me about the BBC Coast programme and speculated whether they had actually “borrowed” my idea in view of the radio broadcast back in ’94, and I left totally inspired to “give it a go” on the internet.

It took a while to formulate ideas but Doug was there to offer advice and encouragement. He told me of his intention to retire soon, asking had I considered this idea, but I told him I so enjoyed this sort of work I couldn’t see a time when I would want to stop.

Of course ideas are one thing, execution another and there have been countless hiccups on the way to beginning this project on the net. Even after his retirement Doug and I still spoke. He was a great lover of history and liked the fact I wanted to include this in an even bigger way in the new project.

And now he has gone, given so little time to enjoy his retirement and even the time he did have was filled with worry and sadness. Those who follow me and learn and enjoy our site will owe much to Doug Brown. I certainly will not forget his help, support and down-to-earth attitude.


We'd also like to pay tribute to Sir Ken Robinson, OBE, who passed away on 21st August 2020. Sir Ken's 2006 talk asking “Do schools kill creativity” not only inspired me but convinced me that my humble attempts to inspire creativity in education had not been in vain and should continue. Subsequent communications pushed me onwards and this website is the culmination of many years of work. I hope it will inspire the imagination of young minds and stimulate creativity. As Sir Ken said, “Creativity is as important as literacy”.

My oft-used quote about creating an infectious desire to learn through this site is endorsed by another quote from Sir Ken and that is “ needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardise education but to personalise it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions”. I'd like to thank Sir Ken for his advice over the years and vouch that his vision, his thoughts, will live on, especially within these pages.

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