Primary - Better learning outcomes: 2007 Forest School East

RWS theme(s)
Education & Learning: “To develop opportunities for lifelong learning through trees and woodland.”EL1a

Forest School is especially enabling for those with behavioural, emotional or learning difficulties, helping them to succeed and develop at their speed, increasing both their skills and their self-esteem. Also there are health advantages to encouraging outdoor play.

WIG funding allowed a Hertfordshire Primary School to restore and use woodland adjacent to the school grounds that had been neglected and prone to anti-social behaviour. The WIG funds enabled the school to train 2 teachers to Forest School Level 3 to run session in this woodland, to erect a perimeter fence around it and provide Forest School equipment such as waterproof clothing, wellies and tarpaulin. The nearby Secondary Special School is also planning to use this woodland too.

The use of outdoor classrooms has proven extremely effective. It brings learning to life and thereby allows children, young people and adults to explore and learn in a more constructive way. Additionally it has been shown to contribute to health-gain and social inclusion.

Initiative description
A forest school is a secure area of woodland that acts as an outdoor classroom. Here people can explore, investigate and discover the natural environment. The Forest Schools East initiative aims to enable Forest Schools to develop in the East of England, giving children in the region the opportunity to explore and learn in their local environment.

Groups of about 14 children accompanied by adult leaders spend a half day every week for a minimum of six weeks (and preferably longer) in a woodland setting. They build a shelter, learn to keep themselves safe, and enjoy a range of exploratory opportunities linked to the school curriculum.

In the East of England the Forestry Commission has been able to offer a Woodland improvement Grant Challenge Fund (a 2-year facility) to provide capital funds to private woodland owners, educational professionals, local authorities and charities to set up and train for Forest Schools. The Green Light Trust is a key project partner.

Lesson(s) learned
Woodland can change lives! The Forest School ethos is spreading rapidly through the region, gaining converts from all parts of the education system. A key to success has been the hard and committed work of an increasing number of people from all sectors.

Future developments
In 2003 there were no Forest Schools in the region. Now there are initiatives underway across all six counties of the East of England. SWT are also working with disaffected youths and Pupil Referral Service.

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