The Forest School Association (FSA) has developed the Recognised Forest School Provider scheme to acknowledge settings which carry out regular sessions conforming to the FSA’s forest school approach.
The phrase 'forest school' was coined in 1993 but is not a trademarked name, so any setting can legally call itself a forest school, whether or not it has had formal training or is a member of the FSA.
Applicants must provide evidence that their practice complies with the six principles of the FSA’s forest school approach, and evaluate their own practice to decide whether any improvements need to be made.
Gareth Wyn Davies, chief executive of the FSA, said, ‘Good forest school practice is being followed by dedicated forest school professionals all over the UK. We believe that the FSA Recognised Forest School Provider scheme will provide these schools and organisations with the means of demonstrating the quality of their work to parents and those who fund their work. It will also help promote their work as they will be found on the FSA publicly searchable map.
‘Forest School is a distinct learning approach based on a set of six principles. Our new Recognised Forest School Provider scheme will help people identify those providers who are following good forest school practice and distinguish them from outdoor and woodland education that are not forest school.’
The six principles of the FSA’s forest school ethos stipulate that forest school sessions must:
- take place on a long-term and regular basis
- take place in a woodland or natural environment to develop a relationship between the learner and the natural world
- feature a range of learner-centred processes
- promote holistic development and foster resilient, confident, independent and creative learners
- offer learners the opportunity to take supported and appropriate risks
- be run by qualified forest school practitioners
The new Recognised Forest School Provider scheme will also assess whether sessions support the development of children’s self-confidence, communication skills and use of tools in each session, whether staff have appropriate qualifications, first aid certificates and risk assessment processes, and whether woodland sites used for sessions are well managed.
Applicants who successfully gain FSA Recognised Forest School Provider status will receive an e-badge they can display on their website, around their premises and in any literature, as well as a range of member discounts.
They will also be listed on FSA’s online publicly searchable map and database.
As the FSA recognises that some organisations struggle to meet the first principle, applicants can be approved as either an ‘introductory’ or ‘recognised’ provider depending on the length and frequency of the programmes they offer.
The minimum ‘introductory’, or short-term, programme is defined as two hours per session for six consecutive weeks within one year, covering two seasons with the same core group of participants.
The minimum ‘recognised’ programme must be at least two hours per session, covering two seasons with the same core group of participants, for either 24 consecutive weeks within a year or 12 consecutive weeks in each of two years.
The scheme went fully live on 12 October, following a soft launch for FSA members in the summer, which saw seven organisations receive Recognised Forest School Provider status.
Stuart Slade, owner of Stuart Slade Forest School in West Sussex and recipient of FSA Recognised Forest School Provider status, said, ‘The application process was set out clearly. What was good about it was making you look at how you work as a forest school provider and, in turn, making you evaluate and re-evaluate your role as a forest school leader. I found the whole process a positive and worthwhile.’
- More details of the scheme can be found here