The FSA Conference took place on the 12th and 13th October 2013 in Cumbria

FSA members can login and watch the keynote talks through this link

“Winning hearts and minds for Forest School” seems to certainly have been the flavour of this October weekend in the beautiful Derwent Valley in north lakes. This first conference for the Forest School Association was all a buzz with lots of debate and positive chat about how we can move the Forest School movement forward. How do we truly win hearts and minds – from the children we work with, through to head teachers and on to policy makers. There were some key ideas from Tim Gill and his latest research, and the research workshop on how we prove our worth in this outcomes driven education culture. This was backed by an eloquent presentation from Margot Sunderland on current findings in neurology and how exposure to the natural world supports our “brain derived neurotrophic factors”. In other words the good pharmacy stored in our brains that helps with learning and, as Margot puts it, ‘soft fascination’. Inspiring workshops from various practitioners from around the country gave food for thought on subjects such as what does child centred tool work look like; how do we create truly sustainable FS communities and how our questioning can facilitate this; what really are the principles of play in a Forest School and how to achieve those deep moments of flow; how do TA’s make their voices heard in a crowded curriculum; how do we work with voice and movement; what are the challenges that technology and screen culture provide and how do we work with this; and many more. This was of course interspersed with serious play around the fire and with the crafty materials, always on hand, on the front lawns.
The whole weekend felt like a coming together of hearts and minds and by the end all felt part if this bigger FS family wanting to work together to win more hearts and minds. So thanks for all the passion and to all who made it possible.”

Jon Cree – Chair of the FSA

There will be a conference report published on the members part of the website with an executive summary available to those who are not members.

details of the conference below.

“Winning hearts and minds through Forest School”

It was held at Derwent Hill Outdoor Centre, near Keswick in the Northern Lakes.


TimGillFSA Patron, Tim Gill, will be a keynote speaker. Tim is one of the UK’s leading thinkers on childhood, and an effective advocate for positive change in children’s everyday lives. For over 15 years his writing, research, consultancy projects and other work has focused on the changing nature of childhood, children’s play and free time, and their evolving relationships with the people and places around them.  Tim was Director of the Children’s Play Council (now Play England) from 1997 to 2004. In 2002 he was seconded to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to lead the first ever Government-sponsored review of children’s play. The review was chaired by Frank Dobson and shaped the Big Lottery Fund’s subsequent £155 million Children’s Play Initiative funding programme.

Dr.SunderlandDr Margot Sunderland will also be a keynote speaker. Dr Sunderland is the author of many books including ‘What every parent should know’ . She is concerned to ensure that parents, teachers and mental health professionals alike, are offered the most up-to-date psychological and brain science research on how children and young people can be enabled to thrive. Dr Margot Sunderland is Director of Education and Training at The Centre for Child Mental Health London, Honorary Visiting Fellow at London Metropolitan University, Associate Member of the Royal College of Medicine, and Child Psychotherapist with over thirty years experience of working with children and families.


  • Citizen Science: ways to collect evidence of outcomes.
    Sue Waite (University of Plymouth) & Sara Knight (Anglia Ruskin University).  Both Sue and Sara are experienced lecturers, researchers and published authors in their field of Early Years and specifically using the natural environment.
  • Babes in the Woods & their families:  Working with under 3’s and their families in the natural environment.
    Jenny Creese, Manager of Connecting Naturally Project, Earthtrust, Oxfordshire.
  • Theories that underpin Forest School, outdoor play and the natural elements.
    Lily Horseman
  • How to work with Forest School to develop community through mentoring and the art of questioning.
    Chris Holland
  • Forest School in a big primary school: The perspective and challenges of A Teaching Assistant.
    Helen Fairest, Oldbury Park Primary School, Worcestershire
  • Preparing for Moderation and Standardisation: A workshop for Forest School trainers or those considering becoming a trainer.
    Linda MacDonnell, OCNWM
  • Soundscapes, songs and creativity at Forest School
    Catherine Pestano, community musician and social worker
  • There’s no ‘I’ in TEAM: The challenges of embedding Forest School within a Local Authority
    Sam Harman, Forest School coordinator for Sandwell, a metropolitan borough in the West Midlands.
  • Using technologies in the great outdoors: opportunities and barriers
    Ian Tindal, Programme Leader, Anglia Ruskin University
  • ‘A hole lot of fun! – Using hand tools to support learners’ ideas’
    Louise Ambrose and Martin Smith, FSTC leaders and trainers

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