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 in the UK.
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 the UK with more partners, support, and funding.
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).
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. 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.
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.
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: www.forestschoolassociation.org/full-principles-and-criteria-for-good-practice.
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