29th May 2019

Paul Brenham-Foster, Senior Lecturer in Primary at Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU), has been presented with a Level 3 Forest School Practitioner Award following a year of training and delivering sessions with local schools.

The training, which included an initial week introducing the ethos and theory behind forest school, sits alongside an online portfolio covering health and safety, ecology, delivery of sessions, theories of play, learning and development. Both of these were followed by a practical assessment week, out in the woods, which explored a number of aspects including camp fire cookery, safe use of tools and fire, planning for holistic development and nature study skills.

The Forest School Association defines Forest School as:

‘an inspirational process, which offers all learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees. It is a specialised learning approach that sits within and complements the wider context of outdoor and woodland education.’

The ethos is shared by thousands of trained practitioners across the UK and beyond. Its roots reach back to early years pioneers in outdoor learning and overseas to Scandinavia.

As part of the approach, all participants are viewed as:

  • equal, unique and valuable competent to explore & discover
  • entitled to experience appropriate risk and challenge entitled to choose, and to initiate and drive their own learning and development
  • entitled to experience regular success entitled to develop positive relationships with themselves and other people
  • entitled to develop a strong, positive relationship with their natural world

Following his award, Paul discussed why he became involved in the initiative and what he hoped its impact could be on the students at BGU:

“Having worked in the Foundation Stage for over 20 years, the importance of outdoor learning and the Forest School approach affirms my own personal philosophy on teaching and learning within Early Years.”

“With the increased focus schools have on mental health and well-being, it is important our trainees have an awareness of approaches such as Forest School as they begin their careers.”

“The aim is for all trainees across the Primary programmes to experience the sessions as a participant and to begin to understand some of the theory behind the approach and hopefully be inspired to train as a Forest School practitioner at some point in their career.”

Paul is currently researching how the Forest School approach can be used within school’s to promote children’s mental health and well-being and the importance of risky play in children’s development.

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