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What is Forest school

Forest School is an inspirational process that 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.

Forest School is a specialized learning approach that sits within and compliments the wider context of outdoor and woodland education.

At Forest School 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
  • This learner-centred approach interweaves with the ever-changing moods and marvels, potential and challenges of the natural world through the seasons to fill every Forest School session and programme with discovery and difference. Yet each programme does also share a common set of principles, aimed at ensuring that all learners experience the cumulative and lasting benefits that quality Forest School offers. (



“When young people are connected to nature, it has positive impacts on their education, physical health, emotional wellbeing, and personal and social skills, and helps them to become responsible citizens.” 

RSPB, Connecting With Nature Report


Advantages of outdoor learning

The evidence for the benefits of outdoor learning is overwhelming and growing all the time.  One of the largest scale studies ever done was conducted recently by Natural England over four years on behalf of the British government.  The study looked at over 40,000 children from 125 schools and found that children who learn outdoors are happier, healthier and more motivated to learn. Read some of the findings at the back of this book.

Alarmingly, the likelihood of a child visiting any green space at all has halved in a generation.  Now more than ever it is time to let our children experience the joys of the outdoors.

In a parliamentary report by the Committee of Education and Skills into benefits of Outdoor Education (2010) it was found that education outside the classroom is of significant benefit to pupils.  We hope you’d like to join us on this journey to connect children back to nature.


Being outdoors all day and more physically fit naturally assists with children’s health.  Children who learn outdoors regularly have been found to have fewer allergies as a result.  Blackwell (2015) also found that long term forest school programmes had a positive impact on children’s mental health and general wellbeing.   

Social skills

Study after study has shown that children’s ability to socialise and interact with others can be improved by learning outdoors.  Herholdt (2003) found that children use more complex language and construct longer sentences outside.  This is because children in the outdoors are usually in groups or pairs, and this interaction, along with using real life tools and first-hand experiences, increases language development significantly.


Mygind (2007) found that mean activity levels were twice as high in a forest school compared with a traditional school setting.  Boldemann (2006) also found that children who have access to larger outdoor environments have a greater step count and move more than those in traditional settings.  These activity levels develop vital muscle tone and increase weight-controlling hormones.  Ejbye-Ernst (2014) found that learning in nature leads to greater strength, flexibility, coordination and concentration. 

Resilience and behavioural improvements

Biddle & Asare (2011) found a positive correlation between physical activity and the students behaviour in the classroom, creativity, IQ and general school performance. Bogner (1998) tested a long-established outdoor ecological programme with 700 students in a national park in Germany. He reported that the programme explicitly provoked favorable shifts in individual behavior, both actual and intended.   

Language development

Dietrich et al (2002) found that playing in nature increased linguistic skills, as they used more inquiring and explorative language.  O’Brien (2009) and her team also studied twenty-four children from seven schools in Oxfordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire.  They were observed over an eight-month period as they attended Forest School. Improvements in the children’s language and communication, confidence, motivation and concentration, and physical skills were recorded.  Children have been shown to use more complex language and construct longer sentences outdoors.




“Children are not things to be molded, but are people to be unfolded.”

Jess Lair


Evidence-based support

A 4-year initiative to help school children from 125 schools across the South West of England experience the benefits of the natural environment by empowering teachers to use the outdoors to support everyday learning.

  • 95% of children surveyed said outdoor learning makes lessons more enjoyable
  • 90% said they felt happier and healthier
  • 72% of children said they got on better with others
  • 93% of schools said outdoor learning improves pupils’ social skills
  • 92% of schools said it improves pupils’ health and wellbeing and engages them with learning
  • 85% of schools saw a positive impact on behaviour
  • 90% of staff surveyed found outdoor learning to be useful for curriculum delivery
  • 72% of schools reported that outdoor learning had a positive impact on teachers’ health and wellbeing
  • 79% of teachers surveyed said outdoor learning had a positive impact on their teaching practice and 69 per cent said it had a positive impact on their professional development
  • 72% said outdoor learning improved their health and wellbeing and 69 per cent said it had a positive impact on their job satisfaction



“If the child is not learning the way you are teaching, then you must teach in the way the child learns” 

Rita Dunn