Become a FS Trainer

Information for those exploring how to set up as a Forest School Trainer in England and Wales
(Other parts of the UK may have different requirements – can you help us with this information?)


In order to deliver any accredited qualification (in England and Wales) a trainer is required to have a teaching or training qualification such as a Level 3, 4 or 5 Education and Training Qualification, PTLLS (or equivalent).  This is the case for those wishing to train people to Forest School (FS) level 1, 2 and/or 3. 

A potential FS Trainer will also hold their own Level 3 FS qualification and have a subsequent 2 years of experience facilitating FS themselves, in accordance with all 6 principles, and with a variety of client groups.  FS Trainers will also need to have a First Aid qualification of at least 16 hours (ideally in line with the qualification set out in Band 3 of the IOL Outdoor First Aid Training Statement: 16 hours of face-to-face contact with a trainer + a paediatric element + an outdoor element) and have professional indemnity and public liability insurance in place.

The FSA is the professional body for Forest School in the UK; a membership organisation and charity who work towards ‘quality Forest School for all’.  The FSA created a rigorous Quality Assurance (QA) process for Forest School Trainers (i.e those that train level 1, 2 and/or 3 students).  This three-stage process has been designed to work for people such as yourselves who are in the early stages of setting up as a Forest School Trainer; so that you can establish practice early on in a way that both meets our benchmarks and is in line with best practice.  A trainer can get through Stage 1 of the process without having trained a cohort, to become an ‘FSA Registered Forest School Trainer’.  Training providers can then use this ‘Registered’ status as part of their marketing to encourage bookings.

You can see what our benchmarks for FS Trainers are by having a look at the Stage 1 Application Form to the QA scheme that can be accessed on this page.

If candidates get through Stage 1 successfully they go on to Stage 2.  A trainer must wait until they have a trained cohort who are in receipt of their qualification certificates before embarking on Stage 2.  Stage 2 involves the FSA randomly selecting 3 of your past students to speak with to ensure that the sense of FS that they have received through their Level 3 training matches our own view of FS (i.e that which is in accordance with all 6 principles).

If a trainer gets through Stage 2 successfully they may proceed to Stage 3, which is a professional peer conversation between an FSA representative and 2 existing Endorsed FS Trainers.  It is an in-depth process but it means that we have absolute confidence in those trainers who are FSA Endorsed and it can be helpful for trainers to advertise the fact that they are so confident in their quality training offer that they have chosen to allow their practice to be scrutinised independently.

All FS Trainers must be Forest School Level 3 qualified themselves and have a higher qualification that demonstrates that they have been trained in assessing at Secondary level or older.  There are several effective routes to becoming an FS Trainer, from bespoke mentoring models, helping you to create your own training and materials, through to a Level 4 Forest School qualification which offers an element of franchising and business support (please note that you do not need a Level 4 Forest School qualification in order to become a FS Trainer).  If you have a look at question 13 on the Stage 1 application form for our FS Trainer’s QA scheme you will see the list of qualifications we consider appropriate for FS Trainers, summarised below for ease:

• FE 7750*
• PTTLS Level 4*
• CTTLS Level 3 or 4*
• DTTLS Level 5*
• Diploma in Education and Training (DET) formerly DTTLS Level 5?
• Certificate in Education (CET) Level 4?
• Award in Education & Training (AET) Level 3
• Certificate in Assessing Vocational Achievement (CAVA) Level 3
• PCE or Cert Ed, QTS or PGCE (if primary you will need to show additional evidence of assessing post-16 qualifications)
• BEd Hons (if primary you will need to show additional evidence of assessing post-16 qualifications)
• Any other related training/teaching/education qualification that is level 4 or above e.g. Agored’s Level 4 Certificate in Leading Forest School and Outdoor Learning Training, Open Award’s Level 4 Forest School Trainers Award, Diplomas, Masters in Education/training, Advanced Graduate Certificates, City and Guild qualifications (e.g. 7407 & 7307)

*shows qualifications that are no longer available to study

Also, any other related training/teaching/education qualification that is level 4 or above e.g. Agored’s Level 4 Certificate in Leading Forest School and Outdoor Learning Training, Open Award’s Level 4 Forest School Trainers Award, Diplomas, Masters in Education/training, Advanced Graduate Certificates, City and Guild qualifications too, e.g. 7407 & 7307

Our FSA Endorsed Trainers have followed a variety of paths to training, and different paths will suit differing needs.  Here are some examples of paths:

1.       This involves relatively high financial cost but relatively low levels of effort and autonomy: work with an organisation to undertake a Level 4 qualification.

2.       This involves medium levels of cost, effort and autonomy and there is huge variability in the range of options here: establish a link with an existing Trainer and pay them to mentor you (this might involve shadowing their training, adapting their policies and initially co-delivering with them).

3.       This involves relatively low financial cost but relatively high levels of effort and autonomy:  approach an Awarding Organisation and set up your own Centre from scratch without any mentoring.

Before choosing your route it is worth exploring if it will enable you to offer your students a Level 3 qualification that the FSA recognises.  You can have a look at the Level 3 qualifications that the FSA recognise on the application form to our ‘FSA Recognised FS Provider’ Scheme‘, but here is a summary of those qualifications the FSA currently recognise:

For qualifications awarded after 1st September 2019 the following are acceptable:

·       the updated FSA endorsed Level 3 Forest School qualification (RQF – ‘Level 3 Certificate for Forest School Leaders’) NOT the ‘legacy’ qualification put onto the RQF by Open Awards – ‘Level 3 Certificate in Forest School programme Leadership’)
·       Agored qualifications (‘Level 3 Certificate in Leading Forest School’ OR ‘Level 3 certificate in Leading Forest and Coastal School’)
·       SCQF Forest School qualification (‘Forest School and Outdoor Learning Leader SCQF Level 8’)

Other qualifications, awarded before 1st September 2019, are also acceptable. Qualifications awarded following training delivered purely online are not accepted.

As part of your explorations at this stage you will also need to consider which Awarding Organisation you will work through; there are a number of OFQUAL recognised Awarding Organisations to choose from.  The FSA specifically supports a number of Awarding Organisations, all of whom offer qualifications that the FSA recognise.  You can examine the list of FSA supported Awarding Organisations.

One other aspect you may wish to consider at this stage is who the existing FSA Endorsed Forest School Trainers are and where they work geographically.  You can find a list of the currently Endorsed Trainers here.

Some reflective questions to explore

·        Do you have the qualifications and experience needed?
·        Have you been practising FS yourself for 2 years?
·        Do you have your own Level 3 FS qualification? (if you ever wish to become FSA Endorsed it is worth noting that the FSA only recognises certain Level 3 qualifications and those that involve face-to-face time with a trainer in the woods)
·        Have you got an adequate teaching qualification?
·        Have you been trained in assessing at secondary level or above?
·        Have you got a good level of knowledge, understanding and skill in all five areas of Forest School (practical skills, woodland environment, learning + development, planning and preparation, delivery)?  If you do not have this mix of skills how will you develop your skills in all of these areas to gain a deeper understanding?
·        What FS Training provision already exists in your local area?  Is the market already saturated?  If so, and you really want to follow this path, are you prepared to relocate to find a market?
·        Are you prepared to invest the time, effort and money required to set up as a trainer?
·        Can you absorb both the initial set-up costs and ongoing costs?
·        Do you have the personal attributes that are likely required in the role of FS Trainer?  The attributes required are many and varied but probably include being an excellent communicator, resilient, flexible, responsive to feedback, reflective, tenacious, emotionally intelligent, enthusiastic, passionate, approachable, honest and open.

Optional for those people based overseas:

If you are considering routes into becoming a Forest School trainer based outside of the UK you would need to find a UK-based Awarding Organisation who would be prepared to support you in setting up a centre overseas.  If you wish you can examine the FSA supported Awarding Organisations here.

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