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In our school the benefits of regular time outdoors is valued and appreciated, and outdoor learning, play and connection with nature is recognised as fundamental parts of education, at every stage, for every child and young person.

The core of this vision is that we make use of Outdoor and Forest School to: support learning and enrich our curriculum; improve Social Emotional and Mental Health; and increase pupils' enjoyment of their school experience.

Through using Forest School and Outdoor Learning we want for all pupils:  

  1. To enable practical, project, and experience based learning.
  2. To make teaching and learning more fun, varied and interesting: to hook learners in; to make learning more memorable and to improve engagement and concentration.
  3. To extend learning beyond the curriculum. 
  4. To facilitate the teaching of ‘disciplinary knowledge’ (eg. learning about how we establish scientific knowledge through field research).

Forest School and Outdoor Learning also provide unique opportunities for teaching PSHCE and developing SEMH. Specifically children learn:

  1. Social Skills - learning to play and work with others.
  2. To assess and manage risks.
  3. To build interest and care for the natural world.
  4. The mental health benefits of being in nature.
  5. To experience awe and curiosity.
  6. Problem finding, problem solving and creative thinking.
  7. Self motivation, independence and responsibility towards our own learning and behaviour
  8. Resilience and belief in themselves as learners and that they can be positive agents for change in the world.

How does it work?

Our sessions take place in Ham Creek Wood, a small Forest directly behind the school. The Forest is regularly risk assessed, including a last final check on the morning prior to a session.

There are currently four different programme routes of use for the forest:

  • Mainstream classes. Pupils in these classes will use the forest approximately once every half term, in support of their learning of the National Curriculum. Most often this will be as part of the Science topic for that term as the space and this type of learning is particularly well suited to this subject. Lessons might involve studying what minibeasts we can find and what microhabitats they occupy; or surveying the types and distribution of plants including trees in the forest. 
  • EYFS: These classes have regular weekly Forest Sessions, following both the EYFS curriculum and Forest School Principles (see below).
  • SEMH. Some pupils are identified as in need of further help to develop and look after their SEMH. This group has weekly sessions based around both the school PSCHE curriculum and Forest School Principles (see below). 
  • Provision: Some groups of pupils within Provision are identified as likely to benefit from the enriching language and curriculum opportunities of Forest sessions. This group has weekly sessions.

Forest School Principles

Principle 1: Forest School is a long-term process of frequent and regular sessions in a woodland or natural environment, rather than a one-off visit. Planning, adaptation, observations and reviewing are integral elements of Forest School.

• Forest School takes place regularly, ideally at least every other week, with the same group of learners, over an extended period of time, if practicable encompassing the seasons.

• A Forest School programme has a structure which is based on the observations and collaborative work between learners and practitioners. This structure should clearly demonstrate progression of learning.

• The initial sessions of any programme establish physical and behavioural boundaries as well as making initial observations on which to base future programme development.

Principle 2: Forest School takes place in a woodland or natural wooded environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world.

• The woodland is ideally suited to match the needs of the programme and the learners, providing them with the space and environment in which to explore and discover.

• A Forest School programme constantly monitors its ecological impact and works within a sustainable site management plan agreed between the landowner/ manager, the forest school practitioner and the learners.

• Forest School aims to foster a relationship with nature through regular personal experiences in order to develop long-term, environmentally sustainable attitudes and practices in staff, learners and the wider community.

• Forest School uses natural resources for inspiration, to enable ideas and to encourage intrinsic motivation.

Principle 3: Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.

• Where appropriate, the Forest School leader will aim to link experiences at Forest School to home and learning in the rest of the EYFS curriculum. 

• Forest School programmes aim to develop, where appropriate, the physical, social, cognitive, linguistic, emotional and spiritual aspects of the learner.

Principle 4: Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.

• Forest School opportunities are designed to build on an individual’s innate motivation, positive attitudes and/or interests.

• Forest School uses tools and fires only where deemed appropriate to the learners, and dependent on completion of a baseline risk assessment.

• Any Forest School experience follows a Risk–Benefit process managed jointly by the practitioner and learner that is tailored to the developmental stage of the learner.

Principle 5: Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.

• Forest School is led by a qualified Forest School practitioner, who is required to hold a minimum of an accredited Level 3 Forest School qualification.

• There is a high ratio of practitioner/adults to learners, whenever possible.

• Practitioners and adults regularly helping at Forest School are subject to relevant checks into their suitability to have prolonged contact with children, young people and vulnerable people.

• Practitioners need to hold an up-to-date first aid qualification, which includes paediatric and outdoor elements.

• Forest School is backed by relevant working documents, which contain all the policies and procedures required for running Forest School and which establish the roles and responsibilities of staff and volunteers.

• The Forest School leader is a reflective practitioner and sees themselves, therefore, as a learner too.

Principle 6. Forest School uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for development and learning.

• A learner-centred pedagogical approach is employed by Forest School that is responsive to the needs and interests of learners.

• The Practitioner models the pedagogy, which they promote during their programmes through careful planning, appropriate dialogue and relationship building.

• Play and choice are an integral part of the Forest School learning process, and play is recognised as vital to learning and development at Forest School.

• Forest School provides a stimulus for all learning preferences and dispositions.

• Reflective practice is a feature of each session to ensure learners and practitioners can understand their achievements, develop emotional intelligence and plan for the future.

• Practitioner observation is an important element of Forest School pedagogy. Observations feed into ‘scaffolding’ and tailoring experiences to learning and development at Forest School.