With some generous investment from Fairfax in our training and some strong internal will, a proper Forest School has begun at Oakwood School! The Forest School Practitioners are Mr Henden and Mr Peacefield, who are both outdoor enthusiasts. In conjunction with the Surrey Wildlife Trust and the Sussex Wildlife Trust, we are learning to support student-led Forest School sessions to a select group of Year 10s and Year 11s.

The Forest School is less a woodland skills class and more a specialised approach that allows students to re-engage with and control their own learning. The Forest School Association explain it like this:

“Forest School is an inspirational process that offers ALL learners regular opportunities to achieve, develop confidence and self-esteem, through hands on learning experiences in a local woodland or natural environment with trees.”

There are a great many documented benefits of this kind of alternative approach to learning but as with all outdoor education there are also some minor risks. These will be carefully managed by the school and the Forest School Practitioners. As part of the Forest School Programme, our students will be learning to use tools such as bow saws, mallets, axes and knives safely. All the tools we will purchase will be specially designed for safe use at Forest Schools and no student will be using a tool they have not been trained to use safely. Similarly, they will be taught how to build, be safe around and extinguish an open campfire.

Forest School is a protected teaching method, something like a trade mark, and sessions should be delivered in the “Forest School Way”. This stipulates: being in mature woodland, being child-centred, having repeated sessions over an extended period and holding sessions that are between 3 and 6 hours.

To this end we have been kindly offered access to the “Eco-area” behind Langshott Primary School and have begun ground clearance. Pretty soon we will have cleared an area for a fire circle and will be able to stretch our shelter over this as the cold, wet weather of winter comes upon us. We have also had wood and logs kindly donated by Connick Tree Care in Redhill and many tools donated by Fairfax.