news

Bringing Children Closer to Nature

posted on July 8, 2019

In a report published today, educators and woodland owners from across the UK provide a much-needed snapshot of how they are bringing children closer to nature through Forest School practice and outdoor learning. This report reveals how practitioners overcome significant barriers to bringing children closer to nature and how this can be sustained.

Forest Schools for All report

Forest Schools for All report – visit the webpage

The report is the result of an online survey undertaken in late 2018 by adults who work with children outdoors, particularly Forest School practitioners. A total of 1,171 people took part, mostly educators (1,080), alongside private woodland owners (94) with an interest in bringing children closer to nature.

The most common barriers to sustaining Forest School described by educators were funding, time, and access to woodland sites. Contributions from parents were important for funding in many schools, except among deprived schools, indicating that greater targeted support is required to ensure all children are brought closer to nature. Challenges of the school timetable and curriculum can be overcome when the Head Teacher and senior leadership understand and make Forest School a priority. For sites, the majority of schools in the survey used their own school grounds for Forest School, therefore reducing barriers arising from location and cost. Woodland owners in this survey were found to play a critical role in providing free access to woodland for educators not based in schools.

FSFA report infographic

FSFA report infographic

The report authors recommend seven key outcomes as a result of their findings.

  1. Schools with successful Forest School and/or outdoor learning should be advocates and share experience with schools that do not have Forest School and outdoor learning programmes.
  2. Government should consider the significant societal and financial benefits arising from embedding the provision of outdoor learning in the curriculum.
  3. The outdoor learning sector should be proactive in advancing further the school curriculum by working closely with government.
  4. The forestry and arboricultural sector should explore how best to support educators in providing tree and site management advice.
  5. New grant schemes should be designed and tested that would help overcome barriers to outdoor learning, and support sought from grant providers.
  6. A new online platform could be designed to support outdoor learning among practitioners and woodland owners, and funding sought for its delivery.
  7. Further research commissioned to increase understanding of the needs of deprived schools, and how barriers may be overcome.

Jen Hurst, Head of Forest Education, Sylva Foundation said:

“We are so pleased to have had such an overwhelmingly positive response to the survey. Sylva Foundation and its partners are proud to have given hundreds of educators and woodland owners across the country a voice at national level. We believe that the results of the survey will carry significant weight and we urge everyone who wants to bring all children closer to nature to read this report and support its recommendations.”

Victoria Edwards, Chief Executive, The Ernest Cook Trust, said:

“This report is really helpful in directing how we can broaden our reach at The Ernest Cook Trust. We are already using it to fine tune our work in supporting an environmentally engaged society. We are grateful to Sylva for identifying some key barriers to outdoor learning and look forward to piloting new ways of working identified by the report.”

The survey was part of a the Forest School for All project led by Sylva Foundation, an environmental charity, with funding and support provided by The Ernest Cook Trust.

The full survey report and further information about the Forest Schools for All project can be found at: sylva.org.uk/forestschools/report

ENDS


Notes for Editors

For more information and to arrange an interview, please contact:

Jen Hurst, Head of Forest Education, Sylva Foundation: jen@sylva.org.uk or 01865408018
See also: www.sylva.org.uk/forestschools

The Forest Schools for All project is a bold education initiative led by Sylva Foundation, in partnership with the Forest School Association, and The Ernest Cook Trust, which is also the main funder of the project. The three leading environmental education organisations have come together with the ultimate aim of increasing and sustaining access to Forest Schools for all children.

Sylva Foundation is an environmental charity working to help trees and people grow together. Founded in 2009, the charity works with thousands of woodland owners managing in excess of 80,000 hectares across Britain, and has projects with many government agencies, major NGOs, and businesses. The Forest Schools for All project is among a number of education initiatives led by the charity, including Timber! which offers free resources on trees and wood, and myForest for Education which helps educators manage their sites to ensure the best outcomes for children and nature.

The Ernest Cook Trust (ECT), based in Fairford, Gloucestershire, is one of the UK’s leading educational charities, inspiring young people to achieve better educational and life outcomes by learning from the land and is rooted in the conservation and management of the countryside. It owns and manages more than 8,900 hectares of landed estates across five English counties. The Ernest Cook Trust actively encourages children and young people to learn from the land through education initiatives (including Forest School) on its own estates, through partnerships with other organisations, and through its dedicated grant-giving programme. Each year its Trustees distribute around £2m to a range of education initiatives. www.ernestcooktrust.org.uk


Comments (0)

Forest Schools for All

posted on June 15, 2018

Forest Schools for All is a bold new education project for Sylva Foundation, in partnership with the Forest School Association, and The Ernest Cook Trust, which is also the main funder of the project. The three leading environmental education organisations have come together with the ultimate aim of increasing and sustaining access to Forest Schools for all children.

Celebrating the launch of FSFA 11June2018

Celebrating the announcement of ‘Forest Schools for All’ during a Forest School session at the Sylva Wood Centre: Simon Gould (Director of Learning, Ernest Cook Trust), Jen Hurst (Education Manager, Sylva Foundation) and Sarah Lawfull (Director, Forest School Association).

For the next two years we will develop and test new approaches across three English countries—Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, and Oxfordshire—with a view to rolling these out at national scale across England (and perhaps the UK) with more partners, support, and funding.

Sylva Foundation Chief Executive, Gabriel Hemery, said “This project builds on the past ten years of Sylva Foundation’s innovative forest education projects, in particular work to support woodland management in Forest Schools thanks to funding from the Patsy Wood Trust.” He continued “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Forest School Association, and especially grateful to The Ernest Cook Trust for agreeing, not only to fund the project, but to act as a main partner.”

The Ernest Cook Trust Chief Executive, Victoria Edwards, said: “Sylva Foundation is a natural fit for The Ernest Cook Trust as we collaborate more and build partnerships with like-minded organisations and estates. Forest Schools for All will both support a more strategic approach to the type of demographic we reach in our education work, and give our outdoor learning team a great opportunity to pilot and refine Forest School programmes across our estates and beyond.“

Project highlights

  • The project will start in summer 2018 with the first national online survey of Forest Schools. We aim to provide much-needed evidence about the barriers and opportunities to establishing and sustaining Forest Schools. The survey outcomes will also help us measure project progress.
  • In the first two years of this project, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire will be focus counties. Supported by national survey results, we will develop pilot projects in these counties, aiming to overcome barriers to establishing and sustaining Forest Schools.
  • The three counties will aim to become national examples of Forest School excellence by having a high quantity and a high quality of Forest Schools through the FSA-recognised provider scheme.
  • The Ernest Cook Trust will create England’s first ever dedicated grants programme for Forest Schools and Woodland Owners. These small grants will be critical drivers of the project by providing much needed contributions towards the costs of Forest School Leader training, and also the costs of Forest School site development in school grounds or private woodlands.
  • To achieve and sustain the national strategic ambitions of the Forest Schools for All project we will invite public, private and charitable organisations, and individual stakeholders, to share in this exciting vision.

Further Information

What is Forest School?

Forest School is a unique approach that gives young people increased contact with, and knowledge of, the natural world, and a powerful process that enables the holistic personal development of young people.

Since 1993, regular Forest School sessions have become part of the mainstream timetable in thousands of schools across the UK: they are very popular with parents, teachers, children and Ofsted. More details about the six Forest School principles of good practice can be found at: https://www.forestschoolassociation.org/full-principles-and-criteria-for-good-practice.

Partner organisations

The Ernest Cook Trust (ECT), based in Fairford, Gloucestershire, is one of the UK’s leading educational charities, inspiring young people to achieve better educational and life outcomes by learning from the land and is rooted in the conservation and management of the countryside.  It owns and manages more than 8,900 hectares of landed estates across five English counties. ECT actively encourages children and young people to learn from the land through education programmes (including Forest School training) on its estates, and by giving grants. Each year its Trustees distribute around £2m to a range of education initiatives. www.ernestcooktrust.org.uk 

The Forest School Association is the National professional body for Forest School, running the recognised providers and trainers’ scheme to ensure high quality Forest School. It has more than 2,000 members.  www.forestschoolassociation.org

Sylva Foundation is an environmental charity offering UK-wide support for forest schools via the myForest for Education website (more than 1,000 registered users). It owns a small estate in Oxfordshire, where it runs the Sylva Wood Centre fostering innovation and enterprise in wood. It has strong links with the woodland owner community across the UK (4,000 owners managing 70,000ha).  www.sylva.org.uk


Comments (3)