Forest School

What is Forest School?

Forest Schoolis an inspirational process, that offers ALL learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees (as quoted by the Forest School Association). The Forest Schools concept originated in Scandinavia. The approach was widely adopted in Denmark in the 1980's as a solution to the lack of indoor facilities for pre-school children. In 1993 a group of English nursery nurses and lecturers visited settings in Sweden and witnessed the benefits.  Since then, the principles and approach has spread throughout the U.K. in a bid to provide children with some of the lost experiences and education that is missing from the majority of children’s lives today.

Forest School at St John's 

Forest School was adopted by St John’s Primary in the Summer of 2017 as we believed it supported our curriculum values and would support the work the school was developing around learning behaviours and mindset.  It began with a small group of Pupil Premium children accessing provision from Stockport BSS and were based on the Heaton Mersey Common.  The success and impact of Forest School was immediately obvious and therefore the school committed to investing in the future development of it with the aim of being in the position to deliver Forest School on its own.

Forest School continued to be delivered by Stockport BSS to the Year 4 group, as the value for all children was apparent, while 2 members of school staff were trained up.  One member of staff is trained up to Level 3 able to deliver sessions and the other to Level 2 to support sessions.

In Autumn 2017 the school began to develop its own site in order that certain aspects of Forest School could be delivered on site whilst still utilising the Common for supporting with some activities.

The school site now comprises of an area of the school site designated purely for Forest School.  It has two main areas, set up with log circles, tool work areas, wood stores and has been planted up with saplings that one day will provide a more authentic feel to the area.  The purpose of two sites is to allow for rotations to enable a more sustainable approach. There is a designated storage container for ensuring Forest School equipment is kept well serviced and secure and the new perimeter fence protects the site from use by those outside of the school community.  The addition of a gate at the far end of the school site allows for easier access to the Common.

Purpose and Aims of Forest School at St John’s

Although not exclusive these are the key aims:

  • To develop the mindset, independence and self-confidence of children

  • To provide children with experiences which do not automatically form part of their home life

  • To provide children the opportunity to develop an additional skill set which they do not get in the classroom

  • To support children in their appreciation of and learning about the environment around them

  • To provide opportunity to develop a child’s self-esteem, empathy and ability to cope and function with a social setting

The Correct Kit

'There's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing'


Kit list for every session: 

  • Waterproof coat

  • Waterproof over trousers

  • Long sleeves and trousers for every session (even when hot)

  • Spare socks

  • A plastic bag (for muddy gear)

  • Hat, gloves, scarf (if cold)

  • Sun hat, sun cream (if hot)

  • Sturdy boots or wellingtons (NB. Wellies can make your feet very cold, so wear big, warm socks, if possible) 

Clothes you do not mind getting dirty (e.g. old tracksuit bottoms. N.B. jeans, although great for protecting you from brambles can also make you very cold, so if you are wearing an old pair of jeans, stick some tights or leggings on underneath if it is a chilly day.)


In order to lead a Forest School session staff should be Level 3 trained and have kept up regular experience of delivering/assisting sessions in order that their skills remain current.  In order to assist at Forest School, the member of staff would ideally be Level 2 trained but at the very least have displayed sufficient competencies in dealing with children in this environment.  Should the adult not hold the Level 2 qualification then they would not be able to independently lead activities deemed to be of a higher risk.


The school behaviour policy is still relevant at Forest School.  We aim to recognise each child as an individual but at the same time expect that all children behave in a safe and respectful manner towards others.  Positive acknowledgement should always be used to promote good behaviour supported by positive role modelling by the adults involved.  If behaviour is a concern and is endangering the safety or well-being of others then the normal scale of actions would be applied.

It is hoped however, that through positive engagement and trying to understand the triggers for behaviour that it will be unnecessary to progress up the scale of actions.  As in school a strong relationship with the child is required and other strategies deployed before requiring more formal action.  Strategies such as distraction, positive role modelling, giving responsibility should all be attempted before the scale of actions need to be deployed.

Our Rules

These should not overshadow the children’s experience at Forest School, however there will be times when the rules of Forest School must be observed and each activity will have their own e.g. tool talks, safe use of fire.  However, the overarching rules of Forest School at St John’s will be shared with children and revisited regularly.  All children are expected to work within the generic rules and also follow the activity specific ones.  The generic rules for Forest School at St John’s are:

  • To enjoy themselves and allow others to

  • To respect the views and contributions of others

  • To respect the environment and equipment which they will be working with

  • To follow the rules in any individual activity

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