Forest School

Forest School- An introduction
Forest school is the creation of a formal link between education and the outdoor environment. Working outdoors with children was initially developed in Scandinavia and has been part of their education system since the 1950’s. The concept of Forest School in Scandinavia is rooted within the philosophy of free play, creativity, socialisation and emotional stability. Children are encouraged to explore, investigate, take risks and respect their outdoor environment. The Development of the Forest School approach in the UK supports and extends opportunities for learning outside the classroom environment. Forest School seeks to inspire children to interact positively with the natural world. It provides opportunities to develop skills, knowledge and attitudes which are lifelong.
Forest School England defines the Forest School approach as:
‘ inspirational process that offers children and young people opportunities to achieve, develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland environment,
Forest School at Howley Grange.
We endorse the above philosophies and are fully aware of the benefits Forest School has for our children. It offers them a unique opportunity to experience the outdoors in a way that will foster and support their growth as confident and competent learners. Forest School will improve our children's knowledge and understanding across the curriculum and will provide them with opportunities to develop the skills needed to become lifelong learners. Forest School will provide children with memorable learning experiences which will enrich their time at Howley Grange. We know that Forest School will improve our children’s self esteem, confidence and well-being, all of which will aid Howley Grange in its efforts to achieve the 5 every child matters outcomes for all of our children.
Key principles of Forest School at Howley Grange.
· The setting is not the usual one- the Forest School setting will not be accessed by the children for any other reason other than to attend Forest School.
· Forest School will be made as safe as possible- Children will be encouraged to take risks, however they must have confidence in their environment and the adults they are working alongside (relevant risk assessments will be carried out by Forest School leader, this being Miss Emily Williams)
· Each Reception and Year One class will attend Forest School one afternoon per week throughout the school year- Children need to experience Forest School in all weathers and all seasons to fully appreciate the outdoor environment.
· Having said this, NEW for the autumn term, Years 3 and 4 will each experience a six week block, visiting Forest School one morning a week.
· Children will be at the centre of all learning in Forest School- our children will need time to make their own choices, support to work co-operatively and guidance to achieve goals they have set themselves.
· Experiences will be planned by the Forest School leader, with the support of other adults involved, based on the children’s interests from their previous Forest School session, however if children choose to take their learning in a new/different direction as opposed to engaging in the experience the Forest School leader had previously planned, this decision will be respected by the adults involved.
Teaching and learning in Forest School:
The teaching and learning in Howley Grange Forest School will be child centred. Each session will have a clear beginning and end which will be lead by a qualified Forest School leader and will be supported by EYFS practitioners; initially the adult led activities will be focused on introducing the children to Forest School and developing their respect for the environment and imparting the rules which keep everyone safe in Forest School. As children become more familiar with the environment practitioners will develop their adult led activities (to be shared at the beginning of the session) based around their observations of the children in their previous sessions. The Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum (DFES 2007) states that; ‘Practitioners should observe children to find out about their needs, what they are interested in and what they can do.’ Practitioners at Howley Grange will observe their children during Forest School sessions and will plan their introductory activities around the interests and needs of pupils, provide them with the resources they need to initiate and lead play. The same principles will be followed when working alongside children in year groups other than Reception; having said this, adult led activities will become more progressive dependent upon the ability, needs and readiness of the learners involved for complexity and introduction of new skills.
Learning in Howley Grange Forest School will be child initiated, practitioners will ensure that children are provided with opportunities to create, share and develop ideas. There will be times when the Forest School Leader will lead certain activities such as; introducing new equipment and shelter building to groups of children, however practitioners will remember to give the children ownership of such activities once they are ready and confident to complete the activities independently. Children will be encouraged to explore, investigate, problem solve, take risks, work co-operatively and creatively throughout their forest school sessions. All aspects of the EYFS curriculum will be evident in Forest School.
Assessment, Recording and Reporting at Forest School:
Assessment in Forest School will take the Format of ‘listening and watching’, this will enable practitioners to know the whole child, finding out about each child’s unique talents as well as understanding the levels of knowledge and skills being displayed.
Recording in Forest School will take many formats, written notes and observations will be made and added to the Forest School section of the children’s learning journeys, these will be further supported by photographs, videos and digital recordings of children’s conversations during play based learning.
One other way in which we may choose to record at Forest School is by adding notes to the Forest School communication/observations book which will be located centrally within the Forest School site, adults involved may choose to note anything they feel is significant to a child, shows the interest of a child/group of children or could inform the future planning of Forest School sessions.
Reporting in Forest School will take format of a Forest School section on the termly reports to parents and the creation of a class Forest School learning journey which is available for parents, governors and other visitors to study to show what we have been doing in our forest school sessions.
Having collected all this information, practitioners will record children’s achievements against the Early Years Profile.
Who is responsible?
It is the Forest School leader; Miss Emily Williams who is responsible for anything associated with Forest School, from liaising with Mr Simon Duncan (head teacher), to conducting and producing relevant risk assessments to running of regular sessions.
Forest School sessions will only take place when the Forest School leader (named above) is on site.
Miss Emily Williams is a teaching assistant currently working within the Foundation stage team; she holds a relevant CRB check and has partaken in many external training days at Bishops Wood Centre, completed in depth coursework before obtaining an OCN Level 3 Forest School practitioner award.
The Forest School leader will be supported by the relevant class teacher who will be ultimately responsible for them during their time at Forest School.
Delivery of Forest School on our site is covered by the school’s insurance, which is provided by Zurich. (Please see certificate of insurance –located at the back of the folder).
Health and Safety in Forest School.
The Health and Safety of our children is of utmost importance during Forest School sessions. Risk assessments are in place to cover:
· The site (throughout the seasons)
· Individual activities (e.g. fire lighting and den building)
· The use of tools and equipment
· Individuals with additional needs
The Forest School site will be thoroughly checked before every session and any dangers/risks will be removed. Practitioners will ensure children are wearing appropriate clothing and footwear depending on the weather conditions. All sessions will be led by a level 3 trained Forest School leader who will ensure that all adults attending the sessions have read the Forest School handbook and are aware of the risk assessments and safety procedures. The Forest School leader will be first aid trained and will have access to a first aid kit at all times. A generic risk assessment for the site will be kept on school premises and updated seasonally or unless it is necessary to do so. Risk assessments will be carried out by Miss Emily Williams/Miss Laura Layton who will visit the site for which they are producing the risk assessment and consider all the possible hazards/risks, consider the level of risk which a hazard proposes, devise a control measure that will contribute to reducing the level of risk and then calculate the new level of risk; this procedure will be followed for each individual activity experienced at Forest School. The Forest School leader is ultimately responsible for carrying out and producing all risk assessments needed at Forest School but should also support the children’s understanding of their own health and well being and help them to develop responsibility for themselves. They should be able to manage their own risks and start to consider the impact of their actions on others. It is of paramount importance that all risk assessments are signed, dated and reviewed regularly.
Further information regarding Health and Safety can be found in the schools Health and safety policy (see ‘policies’ section).
Staffing at Forest School
All Forest School sessions will be led by a level 3 Forest School leader and will be assisted by a level 2 Forest School assistant when possible.  The ratio in Forest School will be 1:6. When using tools children will be supported on a 1:1 basis. Adults included in adult: child ratios is anyone whom the Forest School leader trusts to be responsible, whether this be a student, volunteer or parental helper. More information regarding parental helpers can be found in the school’s parent helper policy, please refer to the policies section. The Forest School leader will ensure that anyone involved has read and understood relevant aspects of the Forest School handbook and is aware of their role prior to supporting a Forest School session. It is the responsibility of the Forest School leader to ensure that adults that are not staff are not left alone with any child/ren and also to manage them effectively.
When a Forest School session takes place it will be lead by a level 3 Forest School leader. A Forest School leader must be qualified with The Forest School Practitioner award. The class teacher will be responsible for the learning of the children. Whenever children are in the Forest School it is the responsibility of all staff present to ensure the children’s safety and wellbeing with the support of the forest School leader.
Parents, Carers and other Volunteers must report to the main office where they will need to sign in, they will then be given a visitors pass which needs to be worn at all times. Volunteers will never be left on there own with the children. All Volunteers will read the Forest School handbook before they help out with a Forest School session.
Safeguarding at Forest School.
Although Forest School is like no other learning experience that takes place within school and welcomes parental help in droves, it is still of paramount importance that the children involved in said Forest School sessions are kept safe. The schools safeguarding policy is adhered to at all times by all involved with Forest School. Please refer to the school’s child protection policy and its appendices included within this handbook. The most relevant aspects have been highlighted; it provides information on what to look for and what to report in the event of concerns (appendices).
At a glance...The designated child protection coordinators are Mr S Duncan and Miss A Lewis. It is one of these persons that should be sought to inform them of a safeguarding issue. If an adult whom is not a member of staff has a concern regarding a member of staff or child then they should to report to the designated child protection coordinators previously mentioned. The Forest School leader should; if they request support in doing this, escort them to the relevant persons as soon as practically possible to enable them to report any concerns.
Disclosures at Forest School
Any disclosure of information made by a child regardless of the situation; is taken very seriously and will be dealt with both sensitively and promptly.
As children are encouraged to communicate at Forest School and both confidence and self esteem are developed as a result of regular Forest School sessions; it is likely that if there is something concerning a child then they may feel Forest School is a suitable place to tell an adult whom they have developed a good working relationship with over consecutive weeks in Forest School environment. Adults supporting at Forest School would not discourage a child from sharing their concern and thank them for doing so, however they would not promise to keep it a secret and would always say; ‘You have done the right thing by telling me but I will have to pass this information on to the right person’. Any person, who a child has chosen to share information with, should ensure that they believe the child, take their concern seriously and listen attentively. They will not ask probing questions nor will they influence that the child is saying by ‘filling in the gaps’. In an ideal situation, adults who are not members of school staff would seek the Forest School leader or class teacher in order to have a ‘chat’ with the child, however if the child had already begun disclosing information then they should not make the child tell more adults. Any person whom a child has disclosed sensitive information to should at the first available opportunity (following the Forest School session or during it, if ratios allow for this) report to the designated child protection coordinators. A volunteer at Forest School may request the support of the Forest School leader to do this. Information should only be shared on a need to know basis. Once it has been reported the recipient of the disclosure they may asked to record their concerns in writing; it should be factual and feature only what the child has actually said not the persons interpretations of what the child has told them; this is in accordance to the school’s child protection policy.
Following a disclosure; the adult concerned should them allow the child protection coordinators to address the issue. They should ensure that they treat the child as they would have done prior to the disclosure and not any differently. They should never ask further questions that encourage the child to give more information.
For further information on this matter please refer to the school’s child protection policy located in the policies section of the handbook.
Lost or missing child:
Safety of all children at Forest School is of paramount importance and we will do everything possible to ensure they each of them are safe and remain within the Forest School boundary and are accounted for. In the unlikely event that a child becomes lost or goes missing this is the procedure that will be adhered to;
· Upon noticing that a child has gone missing; the Forest School leader will check the immediate surroundings as the Forest School site is small and at present children can usually be seen as trees are not yet mature.
· They too will check with all other adults involved that they have not given permission for the missing child to visit the bathroom. One adult will be asked to check the bathroom regardless.
· If the child has still not been located, the Forest School leader will immediately use their telephone and contact the school (on the number that has been previously saved as a ‘favourite’) and speak to the head teacher or the person that is in charge of the school at the time and notify them of the missing child and request additional adult support at Forest School.
· The children will be calmly informed that they need to make their way to Forest School exit sensibly and reassured. The Forest School leader will ensure that all the other children are accounted for by doing a head count before they are taken back to the Forest School tent by the class teacher.
· The Forest School leader will ensure that adults are managed effectively and that jobs are delegated. Sufficient adults will support the children in the changing tent whilst the Forest School leader or assistant extinguishes effectively any fire that has been lit and counts any tools that have been used during the session. This will not be a large number, as tools will only be used on a 1:1 basis in a designated tool area. They will be cleaned at a later date.
· All other adults will continue to search for the missing child within the Forest School site and school grounds. The staff will be encouraged to remain calm and not alarm any children within the school premises.
· The Forest School leader will check all the boundaries within Forest School and also the gates enclosing the school to ensure that there was no exit for the missing child.
· If, after 15 minutes the child had not be located, the head teacher would call 999 and inform the police and adults involved in the investigation would be deployed and continue to search the premises and local area, remaining calm for the duration so as to not alarm the general public.
· The parents would be contacted and invited into school after the police had been informed.
With this in mind, it is very unlikely this should happen as our site is not the usual one and is on site therefore the risk an open woodland provides is minimised here. Having said this, I as the Forest School leader have taken precautions to prevent situations where children go missing, by implementing the following measures;
· The Forest School leader ensures that formal register has been carried out by the class teacher prior to beginning the Forest School experience. They then communicate with them so they are aware of the number of children we will be taking to Forest School and record this on the Session plan.
· The Forest School leader counts the children before leaving the main school building, upon arrival at the Forest School changing tent, before making our way to ‘base camp’, this can be done by a roll call of their numbers in the register, a head count or playing a game such as sticky elbow/sticky feet (particularly with early years as this encourages them to remain still throughout the count).
· The Forest School leader conducts regular head counts throughout the duration of the Forest School sessions, ensuring that all children involved even those that may have gone to the toilet are accounted for.
· A daily risk assessment (the sweep) is carried out by the Forest School leader/Forest School assistant who during this time will identify any hazards that could result in a child going missing e.g. broken boundary fence and take action accordingly for example, coning the area off and deeming it out of bounds for that session.
· All those involved at Forest School are made aware of the boundaries and the fact that they must not leave the boundary during a Forest School session, unless an adult is with them or they are visiting the toilet and the Forest School leader has given permission for them to do so.
· A high adult: child ration is adhered to at all times in Forest School and said adults will ensure that all involved respect the boundaries.
· All relevant risk assessments have been carried out prior to any group of learners accessing Forest School.
First Aid kit
· 1 pair of scissors
· 2 small packs of safety pins
· 3 large sterile dressings
· 9 medium sterile dressings
· 4 small sterile dressings
· 40 assorted plasters including hypoallergenic ones.
· 2 pairs of gloves
· 6 triangular bandages
· 10 moist wipes
· 3 sterile saline pods
· 1 revive aid mouth-mouth resuscitation device
· 1 pair of tweezers
· Waspeze spray
· Savlon
· Burn gel.
Baby wipes, toilet roll, coca cola, sterile water (to be used as an eye wash), and a foil blanket are also kept in the Forest School kit bag in case of emergency.
There is always a qualified first aider on site; the person responsible for administering first aid is Emily Williams. She currently holds a certificate in paediatric emergency first aid which expires in April 2016. Having said this, Emily Williams is currently awaiting confirmation of a place a more relevant first aid course entitled; First Aid for Forest Schools including paediatrics as it focuses upon first aid outdoors, therefore is more relevant.
Laura Layton is also qualified to administer first aid as she currently holds a First Aid for Forest Schools including paediatrics certificate that is valid until June 2014.
Emily Williams is responsible for checking the first aid kit and making sure it is fully stocked at all times.
Emergency Procedure in case of an accident.
In the event of an emergency such as a serious accident, where a child or adult is seriously injured, the following procedure will be followed.
The Forest School leader will be on site to coordinate the children and adults involved but as the Forest School leader is also the designated first aider they will too delegate this responsibility if they are delivering first aid.
The qualified first aider on site (this currently being Miss Emily Williams) will ensure that they deliver the appropriate first treatment in accordance with the injury and if they decide an ambulance is required then they will phone the ambulance or delegate and ask another adult to do this using the telephone belonging to the Forest School leader. Information that should be given to the emergency service is attached to the rucksack located at base camp. It is as follows;
Howley Grange Primary School
Howley Grange Road, Halesowen, West Midlands B62 0HS. Main access to the site for an ambulance is via the early year’s playground, which can be accessed from Frankley Avenue. The key to the gate is located on the lanyard of the Forest School leader or in the Forest School rucksack (there are 2).
Once the ambulance has been called then the school/head teacher should be notified immediately by contacting 01384 818395 (again featured on a card attached to the Forest School rucksack). It is at this point when other assistance will be sought in the form of other first aiders, these being; Mr. Matthew Allen-Year 6, Mrs Lindsey Kellsall-year 1 or Mr David Hill-ICT suite and also the head/deputy head teacher. Whilst waiting for the ambulance to arrive, the Forest School leader will delegate and request an adult uses the key to open the relevant gate and makes their way to Frankley Avenue to flag down the emergency service.
Whilst the first aid treatment is being administered, other adults should ensure that children are and remain safe, in some scenarios this may mean removing the group from the Forest School site and walking them safely back to the main school building, where a register will be carried out by a member of staff and reassurance will be given to the children.
All accidents that occur at Forest School are recorded in as much detail as possible in the Forest School accident book. If it is an employee that has had an accident then the Forest School leader will also encourage and ensure that they input the details into the main accident book located in the school office. If a child has to visit hospital for any reason; the first aider/Forest School leader will also fill in a specific form to them to take with them. All accident whether they require hospital treatment or not will be reported to the child’s parents/carers via telephone call from the Forest School leader or alternatively/in addition the Forest School leader will personally inform them at home time dependent upon which is practically possible first.
Procedure for if it is the Forest School leader that is injured:
If it is the Forest School leader that is injured and requires first aid treatment then it is the responsibility of the class teacher on site to coordinate the children and adults involved. The same procedure will be followed but school staff will be deployed to walk the children from the Forest School site to the main school building so as to remove them from the situation and ensure that it is not a parent helper that is left alone with the remainder of the group.
Confidentiality in Forest School
All adults will follow the school’s policy regarding Confidentiality; please refer to the ‘policies’ section. Any concerns that adults may have should be discussed with the Forest School Leader and they will then take the appropriate steps in dealing with the concern.
A register is formally taken by the class teacher prior to the commencement of the Forest School meaning that under no circumstance should children’s first and surnames be available to access by any person involved at Forest School. The Forest School leader will rely upon head counts throughout the duration of the Forest School session.
As Forest School at Howley Grange is delivered on site, it is not necessary to take contact details of learners to Forest School, because of this there will be no breach of confidentiality. For further details regarding ways in which emergencies are dealt with please see emergency procedure in case of an accident.
There are however, one instance when personal details of children will be transported to the Forest School site, this being; If a child has a medical issue and requires a care plan so as to ensure their needs are met in accordance with their care plan. A copy of relevant care plans will be placed in the Forest School folder kept by the Forest School leader and will be transported in the Forest School rucksack on route to Forest School. The rucksack will remain in full view of the Forest School leader for the duration of the session as it is located at base camp.
Evacuation procedure:
Should the site have to be evacuated for any reason such as an intruder/fire alarm sounds or in the event of an accident children will evacuate the Forest School site via the designated entrance/exit, escorted by Forest School practitioners. The Forest School leader/assistant will ensure that all children are present by doing a head count. We will then meet on the main playground and follow the schools procedure.
Cancellation procedure.
Forest School will only be cancelled as a result of:
· Staff illness i.e. Forest School leader
· Severe weather conditions such as very high winds/thunder and lightning storms.
· Inadequate adult: child ratios i.e. for a class of 30 there should be no less than 5 adults.
If Forest School has to be cancelled all volunteers and those involved; including the learners will be notified as soon as it becomes apparent that a Forest School session is not going ahead. This will be achieved through parent mail and for those that cannot access parent mail; they will be contacted via telephone. Volunteers will all be made aware via a telephone call by the Forest School leader.
The decision to cancel a Forest School sessions lies with the Forest School leader.
Toileting Procedure:
Children will be encouraged to go to the toilet before the start of a Forest School session, if children do need to go to the toilet whilst at Forest School they must tell a member of staff who is at Forest School with them. The child/ren will then take themselves to the toilets situated in school. The Forest School leader must be made aware that a child has gone to the toilet and who is it. If the Forest School leader is concerned due to the fact a child has not returned from the toilet, they should delegate and ask a member of school staff to locate them and ensure their safe return. This should only be done providing ratios will still be maintained within Forest school, if they would be compromised then the Forest School will call school and request the support of another member of staff.
The use of Tools in Forest School:
The following tools may be used in our Forest School session with learners whom are ready;
· Potato peeler
· Bow saw
· Pruning saw
· Secateurs
· Fixed blade knife
The forest school leader will introduce tools to the group when they feel they are ready for them. Once tools have been taught by the Forest School leader and the learners are confident with them the tools can then be used on a 1:1 basis.
When using tools, a designated area should be marked for tool use, this could be achieved using rope and stakes. It will ensure that children not using tools do not go in this area. Using tools with children should be carried out on a 1:1 basis. Young children will begin tool use with a potato peeler, having said this they will not use said tool to peel bark from wood as a potato peeler is designed to peel potatoes and other vegetables. We only use tools fit for purpose at Forest School, meaning we will use them to peel vegetables such as carrots or cucumber that can then be eaten. This will provide children with the opportunity to practice the skills they will need to use a knife to whittle in later life. As their experience within Forest School progresses this will be extended. Tool safety will be taught from the onset and the rules of tool safety will be re-enforced every session where tools are being used. A Safety glove will be worn on the non tool hand when using knives and saws, children will be wearing wellies at all times during Forest School sessions. Adults using tools or supporting tool use on a 1:1 basis will too model the use of PPE and will wear steel toe capped boots when swinging any bladed tool and too will wear a glove on the non tool hand. Children will be made aware of the importance of ‘space’ when using tools and will be given a demonstration of how to use tools safely in a space. Anyone using tools should ensure the space around them is free from trip hazards and people that are too close. When using a fixed blade knife; the user should ensure that their arm’s length plus the knife’s distance away from any other person. They should test this will the knife’s cover on (providing they have received a demonstration on how to do this effectively from the Forest School leader) this area is referred to as the ‘blood bubble’.
Knives will be immediately covered by the relevant cover after use, counted and returned to a secure lockable container which will be stored in the Forest School tent.
Tools will be kept in a secure box or tool bag. No tool will be put away dirty. Knives and saws will be wiped with an oily rag. Saws will have their covers replaced and knives closed. All tools will be returned to the box or bag when not in use. Tool will never be left unattended.
All tools will be sharp. A blunt tool is a dangerous tool. Billhooks and knives should be sharpened using a sharpening stone. The blades on saws will be checked regularly and replaced once starting to wear.
The maintenance of all tools used at Forest School is the responsibility of the Forest School leader, it does not necessarily have to be her that physically maintains each tool but she must ensure they are safe, sharp and in good condition.
It is ultimately the responsibility of the Forest School leader to oversee safe tool use. They will be responsible for teaching the use of tools correctly should children be interested and ready to learn these skills. Having said this providing the Forest School leader has given the Forest School assistant or any other responsible adult at Forest School a safety briefing and they too have given them a demonstration and trust that they are confident to support the use of tools on a 1:1 basis in the designated tool area then this is fine, but should this be the case the Forest School leader must ensure that they oversee all tool use for the duration of the session.
Fire safety Policy
Campfires and the use of storm kettles are an important part of Forest School and will be used in many sessions; when the Forest School leader feels the learners involved are ready for the introduction of fires. Howley grange Primary School aims to ensure that all children and adults participating in Forest School sessions with fires and/or storm kettles will do so safely and with as little risk to their health as possible.
Safe siting:
Howley Grange Forest School site already has an established fire pit/area, which both children and adults will have been trained to approach and leave a long time before anyone attempts to light a fire, this will be practiced regularly and instilled at Forest School. However, having said this, there are times when a fire may need to be sited for example when moving the location of base camp.
When siting a fire, the following should be taken into consideration;
· Tree roots should be avoided.
· Rough ground should too be avoided.
· A fire should not be sited where there is overhanging trees/branches or trees directly above the potential fire site.
· Fires should be kept approximately 4m from shelters built, (particularly those built from easily combusting materials).
· Overly dry ground should also be avoided
Campfire areas will be enclosed by large logs or large stones to prevent the spread of fires.
Storm kettles will only be used on flat ground.
Positioning of children and Adults
· The main fire pit is located in base camp which is surrounded by seating logs at least 1.5m away.
· When campfire is in use children are not permitted to access the area without permission.
· When allowed to access the campfire children must walk around the outside of the seating logs and wait for permission to step into the circle. Once permission has been given children must sit with their legs drawn into the log and not outstretched this will be demonstrated to the group by the Forest School leader beforehand.
· Once seated around the campfire the children must remain seated until directed by an adult to move.
· Children will be taught how to change seats by standing and then walking around the outside of the circle. This will be reinforced each time a group of learners visits Forest School through the use of games that encourage the children and adults involved to do this.
· Advice on the appropriate way for dealing with smoke will be given to the children, they are advised to turn their head to one side, placing their hand across their face and to close their eyes and count to 30 (a peer or adult may count for them)
· If there is a clear wind direction, seating in

Previous page: Gallery
Next page: School Grounds