Secondary pupils, perhaps more than any other group, find their opportunities to access Forest School programmes limited by constraints of the National Curriculum, funding, and group size. The result is that the FS experience is often reserved for those most at risk of exclusion from mainstream education.
At KS3 this may mean “Nurture Groups” and those displaying challenging behaviour, whilst at KS4, Forest School programmes may be bought in as Link courses for the 14-19 Learning Pathways.
Case Study: Ysgol Tir Morfa, Rhyl, DenbighshireGo to top
In 2006 Year 9 pupils with Moderate Learning Difficulties were allowed to attend FS once a week for a whole year as long as they fulfilled all their Social Sciences targets including Tudor reformation and Explorers. They also helped to prepare and cook a healthy meal each day. Estyn inspectors commended Forest School staff for “making very good use of the local environment to support young peoples’ learning”, saying:
“The staff involve the young people in practical History and Geography projects as well as environmental studies. …..For example, young people make a galleon out of twigs they have collected. The young people are encouraged to take responsibility for their own health and safety and for that of the group. The young people keep their own diaries and work towards the John Muir Award.”
Since then Tir Morfa has continued to develop its FS provision, so that by 2009 it includes 2 experienced FSLs and another in training, an established programme of OCN accreditation for pupils, and opportunities for land-based work experience.
14-19 Learning PathwaysGo to top
Forest School programmes are an ideal vehicle for delivering the “soft options” component within the Core of Learning which is common to all Pathways. The development of Key Skills such as Working with others, Improving own learning and Problem solving, is central to the FS ethos.
In addition to these Key Skills, some FS programmes offer chances for accreditation, such as John Muir Award, OCN Level 1 or links to ASDAN.
Between 2006-2009, Denbighshire Forest School delivered 16 Forest School Learning Pathways Link Courses, including seven year-long programmes and involving over 100 KS4 pupils from 4 high schools and 2 special schools.
Download the full Project Report by following the link below to a pdf document, which includes recommendations and 16 detailed Case Studies. Additional Guidance Notes are available for members of Forest School Wales.
The national Woodlands for Learning Forum (WfL) continues to work towards the establishment of a land-based Vocational Pathway centred on Forest School, including liaising with Local Pathways Networks, negotiating Apprenticeships with the Sector Skills Councils, and researching links with the new Welsh Baccalaureate. Jane Hutt, WAG Minister for Children, Education, Learning and Lifelong Skills, has expressed an interest in the role of Forest School within 14-19 Learning Pathways, during her annual meetings with the WfL Forum.
FSW is working to expand access to FS Link courses across Wales, including developing a directory of FS Practitioners in each region. FSW trustees work within the WfL Forum, providing our members with representation and informing them of current developments.
Case Study: Prestatyn High School, DenbighshireGo to top
The school has been developing and extending its Forest School provision since 2006, focusing initially on KS3 Nurture Groups. Two 10 week programmes using external Forest School Leaders were so well received that the school decided to train its own leaders. Their first trainee worked as an assistant on the 3rd programme, and is currently leading the 4th as part of his training. In addition to cutting the costs to the school, this is ensuring a high level of continuity across the curriculum. Parents’ comments about their childrens’ Forest School experiences include:
- “he can’t wait to go every week, he gets his stuff ready all the time. He has learnt to help others, listen and muck in; he is gutted this is his last session”.
- “he has benefited from FS a lot; he is less shy and has learnt to work better in a group and communicate better; it has brought him out of his shell and given him confidence, but he would benefit more from a longer programme”.
- “it is the only day she comes home buzzing about school, and can’t wait to tell us about her day. She has gained confidence and more understanding of the outdoors, and has been teaching her brothers and sister what she has learned”.
The school is also exploring ways for Forest School to enhance its KS4 provision. In June 2008, a short FS programme was used to complete an ASDAN target. As a result of this, good links have been established between the school, Prestatyn Hillside (a local SSSI), and Countryside Services, who manage it. It is hoped these will develop into work experience opportunities in future.