How Outdoor Tribe supports home education families

Unlike a country park, open to the public, the woodland where we hold Forest School sessions is private, a circular tree-filled island surrounded by fields.

The 20 acre wood is completely fenced all around, to keep out the fallow deer, which helps to lower any parental anxiety about children getting lost in a wild place, or coming across strangers during their wild-time adventures.

The woodland is an ancient one, dating back to 1325, big enough to feel you’re in a really wild place but small enough to never be that far from base camp, in reality!

We run Forest School for children over the age of 3. Sessions generally last 2 hours but we can run half-day or full-day sessions if requested by a group. We require a minimum of 12 children to run Forest School to make it viable for us financially and for the holistic development process to work for the children involved, which underpins what Forest School is all about.

What is and what isn’t Forest School?

Forest School is a long term process with a minimum of 6 sequential sessions required, if the children are to benefit from having time to connect with and learn about the natural world and also more about themselves.

Just being in a woodland can deliver a calming influence on children, allowing them to tune into and benefit from the tranquil world that exists beneath the woodland canopy. Whether involved in learning about nature or being involved in imaginative play with new friends made at Forest School, all contribute to the holistic development of the individual children – but this does need time for individual progression to happen.

One off activity sessions, advertised as Forest School, often involving den building, camp fire making and a variety of other activities should not really be called Forest School, as they do not comply with Forest School principles and criteria.

The Forest School Association is trying to address a situation that currently exists, with a very wide spectrum of content and quality being delivered under the banner of Forest School. In reality the FSA cannot stop people using the term Forest School for activities delivered for children outdoors, but they can aim to educate parents, with the aim of helping them make better informed decisions when determining quality of Forest School delivery.

Outdoor Tribe Forest School sessions are run by Susan Collini, a Level 3 Forest School Leader, who works with a dedicated group of volunteers who undergo DBS checks in the course of their training. We do run taster sessions, to deliver just that, but our main delivery is involved with ongoing Forest School, with a minimum sign-up being 6 sessions.

Forest School and children with special needs

We have many examples to share about how Forest School sessions have benefitted children with special needs. We work on building confidence and self-esteem and have recently introduce Nature Ninja awards, providing scaffolding for those children who suffer particular anxiety in a group setting.

The following are just two of the positive feedback we’ve received from parents of special needs children who have attended a block of our Forest School sessions.

My son has really enjoyed being given some freedom which he’s quite unable to experience at home. Being in a small “safe” group with trusted adults has helped him with social skills. The thing he loves the most is walking through the wood, taking time for himself. (parental feedback 2017)

When I asked my son for feedback he said he really enjoyed everything, but  especially exploring with map reading and learning how to make fires. I’m so pleased with how he has come on. He always leaves the session energised and wanting to do more. He is always so excited to tell people what he has done. His confidence has grown so much. (parental feedback 2017)


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