Our forest school follows the ‘forest school ethos’ which has six underpinning principles and criteria for good practice:
|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, observation, and reviewing are integral elements of forest school.|
Forest school should take place regularly, ideally at least every other week, with the same group of learners, over an extended period of time, (at least 6 weeks) and if practicable students should be involved in sessions that encompass learning throughout all of the four seasons.
|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.|
|3||Forest school aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent, and creative learners.|
|4||Forest school offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.|
|5||Forest school is run by qualified forest school practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.|
|6||Forest school uses a range of learner-centered processes to create a community for development and learning.|
We are extremely lucky to have access to our own extensive, securely fenced mature woodland which is ideally suited to match both the needs of the forest school programme and the needs and abilities of all our students.
Our forest school site is used solely for its purpose so is a safe, secure, resource filled environment that is dedicated to providing our students with the space and freedom to explore, discover, learn and to find calm.
Access for all
To allow for the long-term process of forest school, all of our students are offered the opportunity to access a block of twice weekly sessions over one full term per school year in our school’s natural woodland environment. Parental consent and signed risk assessments are completed before students begin their sessions.
This block enables our students to access forest school in a way that allows them to build on their recent previous learning in a meaningful way. This enables our students to demonstrate, over time, better progression and development in areas such as self-confidence, student led learning, teamwork, and behaviour self-management.
The initial 6 sessions of any forest school programme focus on students establishing an understanding of the ‘forest school rules’ which are a simple set of rules that teach our students the basic physical (health and safety) and behavioural boundaries that will keep everyone safe and happy in our forest during sessions.
In addition to this, the first 6 sessions enable staff to make initial baseline observations of student’s abilities and interests on which to tailor future sessions according to their individual or group needs.
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 works on continuous observation of students by a staff member qualified to Level 3 in Forest school, who undertakes constant review. This observational approach of students’ progress then informs on-going reactive planning and lesson adaptation to suit the student’s needs. This ensures that sessions are always shaped by the abilities and interests of each group of students, rather a one size fits all approach.
We aim to teach our students through their own regular, engaging, enjoyable, personal experience in their sessions, about the natural world around them and develop in them a lifelong love of enjoying being outside. The aim of our sessions is to show our students first-hand, the physical and mental benefits playing and learning outdoors can bring.
Sessions aim to offer our students activities that are tailored to build on their individual or group’s interests and motivators. Sessions are adjusted weekly to build on students’ levels of engagement, confidence, physical, linguistic, social and emotion skills and self-esteem.
Equipment and safety
We only use tools and fires where it is deemed appropriate to the learner’s abilities and dependent on completion of a baseline risk assessment and parental consent. These are always led by a qualified Forest School practitioner who has been fully trained to teach students.
Our forest school practitioner holds an up to date first aid qualification, which includes paediatric and outdoor elements.