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Forest School

What is Forest School?


Forest School originated in Sweden in the 1950s and spread throughout Scandinavia where it was widely adopted in Denmark as part of their Early Years education in the 1980s. In 1993, a group of nursery nurses and lecturers from Bridgwater College, Somerset visited settings in Denmark to compare their Early Years provision to that in England. They found that although Danish children do not start formal education until the age of 7 years, they soon caught up with or overtook English children who had started school at the age of 4 years. After witnessing the benefits, the concept was then introduced in this country in 1995. Forest School has its foundations in research and based on established educational theories.


Forest School has been defined as:


‘An inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence through hands-on learning in a woodland environment’.

Forest School England network 2008


Forest School takes place on a regular basis, in a natural wooded environment where adults observe, adapt, review and plan to ensure a progressive programme.

Being outdoors naturally encourages a reconnection with nature and develops an appreciation, respect, care and responsibility for the environment.

Forest School adopts a holistic approach to learning that combines an individual’s social, emotional, physical, intellectual, language and communication, creative and spiritual growth. Social and emotional development is at the forefront at Forest School– the skills required to progress in the 21st century and which are crucial for all children, in all aspects of their lives and gives them the best opportunity in all other areas of learning.


‘Forest School can be personally and socially uplifting so laying firm foundations for other learning’.

Bridgwater College 2015.


Forest School embraces an approach of nurturing, supporting and developing the self esteem and emotional intelligence of all children which occurs by fostering confident, resilient, independent and creative learners.


The safe, non threatening environment allows children to take risks, make choices and also initiate their own learning. Where appropriate, learning at Forest School is linked to the children’s indoor learning at school and home. A learner centred approach ensures that the programme is responsive to the needs and interests of the learners.


Forest School brings its own range of practical skills including: tool use and safety, knots/hitches/lashings, woodland crafts, shelter building, fire lighting/managing/extinguishing/safety and cooking methods.


The Forest School ethos has six principles which were agreed by the UK Forest School Community in 2011:


  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, adaption, observations and reviewing are integral elements of Forest School.
  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 centred processes to create a community for development and learning.


What do I need to wear?


Our aim is to go outdoors whatever the weather; therefore your child will need to be dressed appropriately.  

Each session your child will need:


  • Wellies (or sturdy boots or trainers).  These will get muddy, so please don’t send your child with their best boots or trainers!  No Crocs or open-toed shoes, please!
  • Long trousers, a long-sleeved top and an ‘extra layer’ – perhaps a fleece or jumper.  Please no shorts, skirts or sleeveless tops; these are not practical for the activities we participate in and do not protect arms and legs from nettles, brambles, etc.  Furthermore it can be quite cool in the shade of the trees.  In very hot weather a t-shirt is acceptable – provided your child also has an additional, long-sleeved layer available.  
  • Every session your child will need to bring a waterproof coat (whatever the weather!) so that the whole class can continue outside if the weather changes.  If possible, please also provide waterproof trousers, which can be bought relatively cheaply at outdoor shops or on Ebay, and make a great difference to your child’s comfort.
  • Warm socks every session and a hat and gloves when the weather becomes colder - or a sun hat if it is sunny.
  • Names on clothes and footwear are essential!


Clothes may get wet and dirty, so please only send clothes which are suitable for this purpose.