Forest Schools For All

The Ernest Cook Trust, Sylva Foundation, and the Forest School Association have joined forces to gather much-needed evidence about how schools and educators use wooded areas and forests.

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. These three leading environmental education organisations have come together with the ultimate aim of increasing and sustaining access to Forest Schools for all children. The project is focused on delivery in England, although some work will explore issues across the whole of the UK.

Using evidence from the 2019 national survey Bringing Children Closer to Nature, pilot projects to sustain Forest Schools and outdoor learning in woodlands will be developed and tested in selected counties, two of which are Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. The aim is to roll successful pilot projects out at a 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.

Project highlights

A survey called Bringing Children Closer to Nature ran in 2019 and was the first national online survey of Forest School and outdoor learning amongst educators and woodland owners. The report published in July 2019 provides much-needed evidence about the barriers and opportunities to establishing and sustaining Forest Schools in particular, also a snapshot of outdoor learning activities in schools, and lastly recommendations for taking action to bring more children closer to nature.

Over the next two years, pilot projects will be developed using the results of the survey, and tested in selected counties such as Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. These pilot projects will be evaluated to assess how far they have overcome barriers to establishing and sustaining Forest Schools.

The Ernest Cook Trust will also use the survey results to inform their grants programme with the aim of sustaining Forest School programmes and outdoor learning activities in woodlands. The survey results will give The Forest School Association evidence to help them achieve their aim of high quality Forest School for All.

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 consisting of regular sessions in wooded environments throughout the year that give young people increased contact with, and knowledge of, the natural world. The ethos and process of Forest School enables the holistic personal development of young people and benefits their physical and mental wellbeing.

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.

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