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FSA Book – This comprehensive and illustrative guide to setting up a Forest School is a compilation of knowledge and wisdom from some of the Forest School Association’s most experienced trainers, leaders and members
Outcome: proposed changes to the FSA recognised Forest School provider scheme https://forestschoolassociation.org/changes-fsa-recognised-forest-school-provider-scheme/
FEEDBACK FROM FSA DIRECTORS’ MEETING 26/06/17
The minutes of directors’ meetings can take up until the following meeting to be approved. I know that many of you are interested in getting feedback on the proposals that I put forward for discussion at that meeting. I have tried to summarise the decisions / discussion below.
1. The board agreed that the Forest School Principles need to be reviewed in full and possibly revised. They agreed that this task should be taken on by a working group, comprising FSA members, and led by an FSA Director.
2. Jo Phillips agreed to take on the role of director with remit for wider membership engagement. She will draft a specific proposal for the board concerning the process for forming the working group and reviewing the principles.
3. The board accepted that a comprehensive, and inclusive, process of reviewing the principles is likely to be lengthy.
4. The board agreed that it was not possible to alter the criteria in the FSA recognised provider scheme before the review of the principles has been concluded as this would be like trying to hit a moving target. However, once the review of the principles has been concluded it will be necessary to also review the criteria of the recognised provider scheme.
5. The board discussed, at great length, the proposal to include a second tier in the FSA recognised Forest School provider scheme.
Directors recognise that many members understand what Forest School is and that they aspire to deliver Forest School but have constraints that prevent them from doing this. Directors also acknowledged that shorter programmes are often very beneficial, even when they do not meet the scheme’s criteria for a recognised Forest School provision. Directors’ seemed to agree that, all else being equal, the longer term process of Forest School brought with it benefits not always seen in shorter term programmes.
The threats and opportunities, for the Forest School ethos, posed by having a second tier were discussed in some depth. Directors were keen to ensure that ‘what Forest School is’ (subject to a review of the principles) should be clearly communicated to and understood by all members while not being judgemental about those providers who do not meet the necessary criteria.
The proposal to have a second tier that accommodates shorter programmes was modified by directors to include an element that asks applicants to demonstrate their ‘aspiration to deliver Forest School’. The board then reviewed where individual directors stood with regards this proposal. At this point in the evening there were 6 directors present. 4 said that they were in favour of the proposal and 2 said that they were not comfortable with it.
The board prefers to make consensus decisions wherever possible. As this is a significant decision for the organisation, and the future of Forest School, the board agreed to defer the decision until the views of all directors could be taken into account.
Lisa and I will be talking about the provider scheme at the conference and canvassing views there.
I see that the workshop on the new Recognised Providers scheme is not running at the FSA conference . Are there going to be any opportunities for members to discuss this topic?
Is the verified practitioners scheme going to be re instated as that is the main reason why I joined FSA. I am a Self Employed Freelance FS practitioner but describe myself as an Outdoor Leader as I deliver Duke of Edinburgh Awards , John Muir Awards , Walking Expeditions , Farming and Countryside Education and Bushcraft as well as FS .I deliver FS as and when requested to by clients . I strive to deliver to FS principles and criteria but am usually limited by the clients time/ budget/area to work in / no of children/ reason for wanting FS etc . I am able to discuss FS principles and criteria with potential clients and discuss and explain reasons behind them , however usually a client has to adhere to instructions from elsewhere and have to work within time/ budget/ etc .
So what do I do ?? Tell them I won’t work for them because they will not fit the criteria for FS ?? Come on get real most of us are freelance, we cannot afford to turn work away .
Is the success of FS not going to be in the true FS practitioners educating the teachers/ schools/ parents / organisations about the principles and criteria of FS and working with clients to develop their FS to comply with FS principles and criteria .
If a teacher/ school/ parent / organisation want to find a qualified experienced FS practicioner how are they going to find one . I have googled FS just like anyone else does and I know what comes up and it certainly isn’t FSA and when you do get into FSA there is a list of a paltry few verified providers in the South and now way to contact any FS practitioner
In my opinion FSA need to get these issues sorted out VERY QUICKLY as I personally will not continue my membership if I cannot see any benefit to being a member .
I am a member of IOL and LoTC and both offer Organisational membership and then the opportunity to gain accreditation .
Please think very seriously and very quickly about the current arrangements and reinstate the verified practitioners immediately so teachers/ schools/ parents / organisations can find a qualified practitioner , otherwise these people will go elsewhere .
Reinstating the Verified practitioners will also give most people a reason to stay as I note that not even the people who are well known in FS and that includes the Directors are not on the FSA Recognised Provider Scheme .
Call it something or FS taster sessions?
I think it’s a good idea to re-instate the verified practitioner status and map while the consultation on the principles is going on.
I agree that the Verified Practitioners Map should be re-instated and should stay.
I have also mentioned previously that individual, verified practitioner, organisational membership, approved provider accreditation and endorsed trainer, are completely separate membership types and I feel ALL would be welcomed by members.
I too look at the IOL model in that you can be an individual member, an organisation membership and then for those who want to have their practice verified, you have the IOL professional accreditation process. It really is a good model!
Perhaps a wider consultation should have been had (still could be!) with members as to suggested membership categories before rolling out a scheme which is potentially unattainable for many.
I was disappointed to hear feedback from the conference that the related discussion wasn’t at a time (lunchtime) when all members could attend. Good feedback about the conference generally though – I wish I could have been there!
Someone has kindly shared with me a copy of the conference evaluation document for participants. I was really pleased to see questions asking for responses to people`s thoughts about Principle 1 and in particular to consider: the length of FS programmes, duration and frequency.
Could the same section of the document be sent to ALL members please for everyone`s contribution? Then once collated, could the results be published please?
I have taken on board all the thoughts and ideas expressed here and prepared a memo for directors on the subject. Directors will discuss this formally at the next board meeting on Monday 26th June (directors have of course also followed the comments here). I have separated out three main issues for their consideration:
1. The criteria for the FSA Recognised Provider scheme. I am proposing a two tier system for this scheme. I am hoping that directors accept this in some form as it is very important to our strategy that we be able to move forward with this. As a principle, I hope that they keep the top tier as it is because it is harder to tighten criteria than to relax them in the future. A second tier will give the vast majority of providers an opportunity to become recognised. Ultimately, this is a decision for the board. However, I will be recommending that we do another iteration of consultation once/if the Provider Scheme is revised.
2. The Forest School Principles need to be reviewed in full and probably revised. This need is well understood, as is the fact that it is a major undertaking. I am proposing that we undertake a full review of the principles with considerable membership engagement. I anticipate that this process will take up to a year to complete. I have proposed that a director be made responsible for leading this process and that a working group (with member involvement) be set up to manage the process.
3. Membership engagement. We have not always done this as well as we could have and this has sometimes caused frustrations and tensions. I have proposed that, in addition to appointing a director responsible for membership engagement, we clearly define when and how membership engagement should take place. In particular, it would be helpful to have clarity about appropriate member involvement in decision making.
I trust that these steps are satisfactory to most members. If the directors agree on 26th June I would hope to have proposals outlined in these three areas in time for the conference so that they can be discussed.
Thanks Gareth I await the minutes with interest.
Nice one, Gareth.
I think you’ve set the bar very high. I understand the need for distinction between outdoor ed and true forest school. I like the element of seasons. You’ve also not mentioned the length of session e.g. a nursery in a poor setting doing rushed 1/2 hour but most weeks through the year compared with say a whole day once a month in a wood maybe over years – to me the latter is more like true forest school but wouldn’t match your criteria as they’re not often enough.
I’m confused with the obsession over this principle and not the others such as integrating care of the woodland . I’ve come across “forest schools” that are all about play and maybe tools but no regard to care of the wood. Will this balance by addressed?
My own view is that forest school is very much like an old fashion graphic equaliser and may score highly with one element but lower on another. What score does it need to be forest school?
Thanks for listening.
Would it be an idea to make space for some discussion at the conference? I know that not everyone can come but in the light of the discussions here (which could be displayed at the conference) and with the opportunity for some f2f chat we could perhaps move the discussion forward so that a new proposal could be made?
I think that sounds a great idea Sara. Can I however suggest that all members are contacted again in advance of the conference to be offered the opportunity for their voices to be heard even if they are not attending the conference; so perhaps another email to all the membership (sent out this week) asking them to continue the discussion on here so they know that their views will be considered at the conference – this would be nice.
As things stand, there is no date published for the close of the consultation, therefore if the conference is given as an interim date, at least people will know.
I would also ask please that any discussion is video recorded and made available for other members to see and comment on, soon after the conference (I mean a few days, not weeks or months!). I feel that then gives the whole membership an opportunity to be involved with this important consultation before final decisions are made.
Sadly I can`t attend as I had made arrangements to attend the original date before the conference dates changed but like many others, I would like to be involved with any discussion.
Commenting on behalf of Georgina Greeves, whose individual membership has expired & who was going to sign up for organisational membership but is now not so sure: I appreciate the need for principles but if, in defining them, they become so unrealistic as to exclude the majority of practitioners due to funding and the organisation of our educational system it seems to rather defeat the object. There was a discussion here not so long back as to whether they were even the right principles in the first place! I don’t want to see things ‘watered down’ but feel this direction is incredibly restrictive and diverts the conversation. It isn’t about forest school being puritanical or elitist it’s about helping the conversation about what forest school is or isn’t and how it fits in and is similar to and different from other types of outdoor learning and what your young people or client group might gain from forest school and why and how this might differ from what they would gain from other types of learning etc etc. Everyone’s forest school is different and I don’t think very tightly bound. ‘It IS this’ but ‘we don’t recognise this’ isn’t actually very helpful or in keeping with forest school ethos. I think the 52 week thing is a nonsense – people have holidays! I think most practitioners will have certain of the principles that are their favourites or their ‘no compromise’ areas but I know lots of wonderful forest school leaders doing amazing work out there in incredibly difficult and challenging circumstances and without change this will just exclude and disengage people. If a tightly defined definition is genuinely needed (?! Discuss?!) I think 10 or 12 weeks would be more realistic. If this is felt too diluted it should perhaps have the added ‘best practice would be to have this over more than one year’. We all know that every day/week forever more would yield great results for many people but we are not in Scandinavia, our education system isn’t set up for that, our school/pupil/charitable or trust funding isn’t either. It just seems unrealistic and divisive and honestly a little out of touch with the vast majority of provision that is happening out there. If the other principles get the same treatment I would imagine there will be about 4 forest school groups out there with about 40 people actually experiencing it!!
Georgina’s view is that membership should not be conflated with accreditation – the two should be kept separate.
In the real world practitioners have to be pragmatic when providing their long-term programme.
Good one Gareth. The one thing that people who have worked in “outdoor ed.” before becoming FSP have consistently said to me over the 13 years I’ve been involved in the movement is that they they got fed up short term/one off nature of their programmes (not being able to see the long term impact). I have on a couple of occasions seen success on one activity completely change a student’s self image but this has always followed on from long term programmes – I believe that from first meeting; becoming a trusted significant other usually takes at least six weekly 5 hour sessions (I call it the honeymoon period) and after that is when an experienced FSP can really start to make a proper long term impact.
Thank you very much for your comments everyone. Please keep them coming. I have directed directors’ attention here and will also compile key issues for discussion by directors. We will then consider the next steps in the process. Ultimately, the question will need to be taken to the full membership as only a very small number tend to comment on the website.
Some important themes that stick out for me include:
1. The wording in the principle 1 is very ambiguous and it would be helpful to have it clarified.
2. Evidence based decision making. Why are we setting the time scales that we are? Is it based on empirical research or is it based on a popular understanding of what works .. or something else? FSA staff have been trying to interpret the current wording.
3. Should different time scales apply to different client groups based on efficacy?
4. Which takes precedence for the FSA, the various interests of our members or promoting the purest form of Forest School? Can these interests always be reconciled? The proposal to have a tiered scheme would seem to be an attempt to achieve this.
5. The tension between pragmatists (sometimes called ‘inclusive’ folk) and purists in the FSA has always existed. If it comes to a popular vote over how to define ‘long term’ would the commercial pressures faced by members influence the outcome? Is it right that commercial pressures should influence how the FS ethos is defined?
6. All the Forest School principles need to be reviewed.
Thanks for your considered response, Gareth. I look forward to reading people’s thoughts (especially those of the directors). In response to your point 4, it does need to be remembered that FSA IS the membership – if we sign up as members, we are agreeing with FSA’s mission to promote Quality Forest School For All, therefore I don’t see any distinction between the interests of the members and FSA as a whole, because they are one and the same thing. I agree that a tiered system of recognition could accommodate the reality of provision while promoting best practice. Personally, because I run FS as an intervention and therefore my groups have issues which can take a long time to unpick, I don’t believe that 6 weeks is long enough. But for younger children a 6 week block may well be long enough for the transformative effects of quality FS provision to take place.
Regarding point 5, I genuinely believe that FSLs (at least those who have signed up as members of FSA) have the ethos at heart and wouldn’t vote based on financial concerns. In my opinion, they certainly should not.
So confused and worried about these developments. We all know that Forest School is a long term process, the longer the better to allow for more benefits to learners, more time to step back and observe learners and really create a sense of ownership.
In a ideal world we would all be delivering Forest School over the long term, 12 weeks, a full academic year etc etc. But for most of us this is not a reality. Very rarely does a client approach me regarding a programme over 6 weeks, mainly due to budget issues. Also how does this impact on the L3 training? Would this result in L3 learners having to deliver a long term pilot session to gain their accreditation?
I think I speak for many FS practitioners in that we wish we were delivering FS over a true long term basis. But more often then not we are not.
On a personal level both as a practitioner and trainer, I advocate programmes to be a as long as possible, the more the better. When clients contact me I strongly advise a 10-12 week program if not longer with session times being a minimum of an hour and a half. But this is not a reality or even possible for 90% of my clients. I would never class or actively name and promote a programme as Forest School unless we are, as a minimum delivering 6 x weekly session with sessions of an hour and a half.
I fear that this is just another hoop we have to jump through and many great FS providers will not be able to meet these requirements. 52 weeks? seriously?
There are some really positive and constructive suggestions here which will help ensure that all members have their needs met whilst encouraging everyone to aim for quality long term provision wherever possible. I really Like Claire Hobson’s suggestion of a 3 tiered scheme. I would also like to see local groups involved with mentoring and peer review to further increase reflective practice and offer support on the ground. I’m also really keen on my own suggestion (ha ha!) for the verified practitioner’s list to still be available for those who don’t want to go down the provider’s scheme route. Let’s be inclusive and cater for everyone..
Mark Clarke’s comment is well reasoned and I hope that the FSA take note of it as his suggestions both maintain the integrity of Forest School and its ethos whilst advising the FSA not to present itself as an elitist organisation for the few who can meet the proposed vision of ‘long-term’.
I totally agree with Mark Clarke`s and other members opinions as below – they have covered so many very valid points.
My thoughts are that the tone of this document doesn`t come across to people as a consultative document at all. It comes across as a categorical statement that the FSA says `this` and if you want to be recognised, you will `do that`! Where`s the consultation approach in that??? I certainly know of many people (me included) who are finding that the tone of this document is totally disheartening. At the end of the day – we ARE the FSA (not just the Directors and CEO) so perhaps the wording in the consultation document should be altered to reflect the inclusivity of all members. At the moment, it is very dictatorial and top down document when we are supposed to be a `bottom up` membership organisation.
With respect, I feel as the principles were written in 2011, before the vast cuts in education budgets, that they don`t perhaps reflect todays situation. I do feel it would have been wiser if the principles were reviewed prior to basing the current providers QA system on them.
I totally agree the need to differentiate between what is Forest School and what is an outdoor learning session, birthday party, or week holiday club etc and welcome this move. However, I also believe something major is missing in this document ie quality of FS provision.
Looking at some of the points:
1) 52 weeks – total nonsense. It is the academic year which should be referred to if you are going to refer to years at all.
2) Across the seasons – in an ideal world yes, but it is looking like this is potentially a bar to a qualified L3 FS Leader in gaining FSA Approved Provider status, regardless of the fact that they are an amazing provider, in an incredible setting and offering amazing transformational programmes – be them over 1, 2, or if very lucky, 3 or 4 seasons? This thought is so terribly wrong and something I find incredibly upsetting when I see for myself every week, the incredible work people are doing in short term Forest School programmes. I feel it is not up to the Board and CEO to make this decision, it is up to the members.
3) As a trainer, I visit every L3 trainee in their setting on their pilot programme and I see and hear about some incredible life changing experiences for children and staff – even on just 6 sessions. Yes, it would be lovely to have longer programmes and I always advocate the value, but expecting once qualified for L3 leaders (mostly school staff) to be able to take a small group through 4 seasons, is just impossible and you are setting the scheme up to fail and more importantly, totally devaluing all the good work L3 FS Leaders are doing across the country. I am sure, if you were to ask members to provide case studies where even 6 weeks has had a transformational effect, you would be inundated.
4) My own view is that quality should be considered over quantity; with Forest School consisting of a min of 6 (I could accept 12) half day sessions (plus meeting the other principles) for approval on the FSA endorsed provider QA scheme. This then starts to exclude all the people offering a couple of sessions/birthday parties/short holiday clubs and calling it Forest School. However, with the aspiration to run longer programmes as budgets and numbers permit. I DO NOT FEEL THEY SHOULD BE EXCLUDED FROM BEING APPROVED ON THIS BASIS – As I said above, the thought is so terribly wrong. Once approved on the scheme and moving forward, there could be `centres of excellence` introduced for members who do manage to run very long term programmes. I would nominate several people for this category – Nadia Romano`s setting for one, which is an incredible full time Forest School Kindergarten provision running for 38 weeks of the year (not 52 weeks as required under this `consultation`)
5) When I read this `consultation document`; I was extremely upset to think that many of the brilliant people I have trained will not be eligible to be accepted on the scheme because they will only be able to run 6 session programmes until the benefits have been witnessed by the Senior Leadership Teams and this will take a few years – so in the meantime, their brilliant practice won`t be recognised which is so wrong.
6) Perhaps a staged membership like eco schools ie Bronze, Silver and Gold membership with Bronze say for settings which offer short term (min 6 weeks), Silver medium term (min 12 weeks) and Gold, long term programmes (year long) which are then totally embedded into the ethos and development plan of the setting. This approach would be far more supportive and encouraging for Level 3 FS Leaders who are all so passionate about their provisions and doing some fantastic work.
7) I also feel that all the principles should be reviewed (considering they were written in 2011) under consultation with the FS community at large (not just FSA members) and the results of which could form the basis for Provider endorsement. Perhaps as this would take time, current applicants, could all be accredited at Bronze level to start with (unless of course they do meet silver/gold on application).
In closing, three final questions…
1) I have tried to access the minutes of Directors meetings as I`m curious to read how this process has come about however the links are not working.
2) When does the consultation close? Please could the date be made available to members – thank you.
3) Will this topic be discussed in an open forum (available for all participants to attend ie not a separate workshop)? If so, I would very much welcome the discussion to be videoed and available quickly before the consultation closes, for members to view.
In summary, Although I appreciate this `consultation document` was written with all good intentions, I feel personally that the apparent tone is alienating and dividing the FSA membership and causing a lot of misunderstandings, misinterpretations and disenchantment. I have had several people I have trained now questioning whether their FSA membership is worth it; if through circumstances beyond their control they are currently unable to be part of the FSA Approved Provider Scheme; when I personally know they are brilliant, passionate and capable Forest School Leaders running incredible programmes even though currently only 6 weeks for some of them therefore I propose a staged approved provider process as above with perhaps Bronze, Silver, Gold memberships to reflect where they are on their Forest School delivery journey.
Copy of Message from FSA Kent & Medway Member Kirsty Meekings:
Very well said Clair. I like the idea of a staged accreditation. Schools would also like to be able to state what level of Forest School they offer and that grading would be understandable to parents, governors and Ofsted alike. Thank you for taking the time to write your opinions to the board, I’d love to hear any response that you get.
Thoughtfully and well said. I like the idea of a staged accreditation for the reasons mooted and supported in the replies. I feel it would work particularly well within a school environment. I also agree that the qualified member map should be reinstated. Also I do beleive there should be some stipulation for minimum session time. How can one hour or one and a half hours be long enough to allow for the FS ethos to be put to work. It would help those that are pushed into accepting less time within a school setting. 1.5 is not enough particularly if there is a journey to the FS site, and a need to allow time for getting into the right clothing etc.
Yes to Claire’s point – I like the idea of the bronze, silver, gold.
Gold, silver & bronze is a great idea and makes a lot of sense considering the reality of cuts in education and other public services. It would acknowledge good practice while, at the same time, underpin the desire for the ethos to be fully implemented when possible. It’s about achieving a balance so that Quality Forest School for All can one day become a reality.
The idea of a staged approval ie Bronze, Silver and Gold came about during my wonderful conversation with Sarah Lawful. We both feel it would be an inclusive method of FSA Provider endorsement/approval thus recognising where ALL FS Leaders are on their delivery journey.
I also agree with Deb that the Qualified Members Map should be re-instated to support qualified FS Leaders who do not wish to go through the provider endorsement process.
Well put Clair. Maybe the three tier system could be Seedlings, Saplings and Standards?
Sounds good Kathy – I was trying to come up with alternative names too! Maybe it is something which could be put to the membership for ideas if this is a route which is progressed.
I’ve spent quite a few hours, getting everything ready to send off (before the price goes up),for FSA Provider Status, only to find that the goal posts may have moved and that my FS provision may not now qualify under the new longterm criteria.
I’m glad the consultation is taking place. However, it’s a great shame it didn’t get ironed out BEFORE the FSA Provider Status was launched.
And I have to agree that if these principles are adopted, then many of us will not be delivering real “Forest School”, it will feel like a real kick in the teeth. Many of us do our level best to be true to the principles, ethos and spirit of Forest School and we feel passionately about them. But we have to compromise in terms of fitting in with what fits in with schools – timewise and what they are able to afford. I believe that if the FSA can’t compromise also, it will be letting us down.
It reads fine to me, with one exception. There is a need to differentiate between FS in terms of defining the time over which it happens, and 10-12 feels right to me. It would be useful to define a session length though, and I suggest 2 hours minimum. All the best, Phil
I am currently undertaking my Level 3 Forest School Practitioner training. I am a qualified teacher, artist and parent. I am trying hard to understand what is going on in the Forest School world right now in the UK. The consultation paper at first sight appears to give one message it seems to me, inadvertently getting the backs up of many genuine and highly dedicated FS Practitioners.
I agree with much of Principle 1 in its original form from 2011. Trying to clarify the term ‘long-term’ for the purposes of registration for FSA is going to be a bit of a hot potato. I would like to hope all FSP’s would agree the long term benefits are a key element to FS, but ‘long term’ is made to sound almost like a sentence. Outlining ‘Experience Days’ and ‘shorter term experiences’ as, ‘Not Forest School’ for many is going to be a genuine kick in the face from the FSA. Some clients may need just one short experience of the woodland environment to make a huge difference to their lives in the same way that others may need a year or more. Time is not the important factor here.
Of course we should all aspire to the 6 principles, they make sense, were agreed by practitioners at the time and I am sure the majority of genuine providers do, as there will always be those who will not recognise the FSA and all it is trying to do and stand for.
The terms used in the Principle 1 original document are not ambiguous in my opinion. The terminology leaves the individual practitioner and their respective client group the opportunities to be flexible for their own specific needs and circumstances. Differentiation!
The examples given, ‘every day, every week covering approximately 52 weeks across all four seasons’ for the vast majority of practitioners is completely unachievable. In other countries around the world where the culture and history differ to ours this may be possible but not in the UK. We have to be realistic.
One off or short term experiences of Forest School are hugely beneficial to the overall Forest School movement. Without these opportunities how can FS demonstrate to the uninitiated the benefits and grow in the UK? To rule out those who may spend a great deal of their time involved in this type of activity clearly suggests the application process FSA is proposing is flawed.
I would not hesitate to suggest the majority of FS providers would be delighted to deliver FS to their clients 5 or 6 days a week throughout the year but in reality in the majority of cases this is simply not possible.
If the FSA is to be a genuine organisation representing the growing numbers of FS practitioners then we must all be realistic. If the FSA is attempting to become an elitist association representing only those who have the means to work this way, I for one would not wish to be part of such an organisation.
Forest School as I understand it, is for everyone, no barriers. Forest school practitioners are the same, we are all learners as we can all be teachers/facilitators.
‘Long-term’ for who? The practitioner or the client? A one off experience in many instances as suggested, may be as valuable to some as a year long series of sessions for others. The experience and the quality of the experience is the important thing, not the amount of time.
‘Long-term’ for a three year old can be just a few minutes, an hour, for governments and larger industries 10 years or more can be long term. For forest School the term, in my opinion, should relate to ongoing activities for the client group in order for them to experience and recognise change in themselves and the environment. For some this could be as little as a single session for others a year would not be long enough. The important and most overriding point is not the amount of physical time but the impact and effect on the individual. Forest school in an hour, day, week, month, year it does not matter it is still Forest School.
Perhaps the FSA might consider levels to distinguish FS providers if there is a determined effort and requirement to clarify ‘Long Term’, I’m not convinced it is necessary:
Introductory Offering from a single taster session to multiple session experiences (up to 12) over a period of months,
Progressive Multiple sessions, equivalent to at least once a week, from 12 weeks to 6 months,
Accomplished Immersive experiences, equivalent to at least once a week, for a year plus.
All following the principles of Forest School relative to their situation with a clarification of the level of experience learners can expect to access. Dismissing providers and potential members who are not able, in their situations through no fault of their own, to deliver ‘long term Forest School,’ in the current FSA’s description is disrespectful to those who dedicate themselves to FS.
An unscrupulous individual or organisation offering outdoor education experiences and using the term ‘Forest School’ is unlikely to pay a registration fee with the FSA and therefore would not be recognised on the database. Those individuals and organisations who are dedicated to the ethos of Forest Schools will perhaps want to be associated and will register if they see FSA as representing them and working for them.
I feel I have ranted enough and I hope I have been able to get my point across. I am early in my career as a Forest School Practitioner but I want to know my association is for me, aspiring to great things and not the elite few.
Perhaps this is a discussion that can be carried forward to the FSA Conference?
Hello, I think this is definitely a useful thing to clarify, and a good starting point for discussion. Here are my comments:
2.1) Holistic development is usually considered to have 5 or 6 elements (PILES/SPICES). You have mentioned 3 which I think may be confusing.
For me one of the main benefits of repeated sessions is the chance for children to apply learning from previous sessions – could this be made more explicit.
How does the long term nature of FS contribute to academic attainment and home/school life (I’m not saying it doesn’t but I think you need to explain how this effect comes about and reference your sources).
5.2) Where you say weekly I think it would be useful to clarify length of session. Do 12 weekly 1 hour sessions count?
Finally, I currently do something very similar to what you suggest – i.e. I try not to say no to schools that are local to our community garden if they will only do 6 weeks, 1.5 hour sessions (or want to bring the whole class!) etc I try and explain to them that this is not forest schools but I call it a taster, or a “forest school inspired session” or sometimes bushcraft sessions. In my experience they don’t really see the difference initially and call it forest schools anyway, but then once they get started it gives me the chance to point out that we would have a greater impact if they came for a whole day/brought half the class etc, which they sometimes then book in for the following year.
Like – wish there was a like button 🙂
Thanks Jan 🙂
I am pleased to see that some clarification is being sought over the meaning of long-term programme in respect of Forest School. Having always remained unsure as to whether my provision could be called Forest School because of the meaning of Principle 1; although I have used that term to explain what goes on to Senior Leaders.
My work is for a school where children attend outdoor learning from Foundation 2 to Year 6, throughout the year on a rolling program that sees children have week blocks every term in Key Stage 2. Whilst younger children have a session each week. So the children experience nature through the seasons and are exposed to situations where they manage their own risks on a incremental basis. So to me it seems to be long-term within the spirit of Principle 1. But, because it is not the same group every week for the whole year does it really count as long-term?
There is, I feel, a danger that being over prescriptive would lead to an increased sense of the commodification of Forest Schools. Therefore, I would not like to see the requirements become a straight jacket that excludes lots of good practice. However, the guidance that goes to exemplify Principle 1 needs to have clarity, which may be difficult to achieve given the ‘broad-church’ nature that is Forest School.
Rambling over — Regards
yes, Paul, lines cannot be drawn easily. As, in order to pass the FSL qual, apparently you only need 60%, perhaps that’s the amount of leeway required; i.e. a series of criteria & if you tick 60% of them (or it could be more – I’d rather it was) then you achieve recognised status………
Jan – I`m not sure where you got the information about only requiring a pass of 60%?? This certainly isn`t the situation with the main awarding bodies… Just thought I would say!
It is great to see so many members contributing and offering their experiences and viewpoints to help the FSA with getting this right. It’s evident that all members need to be acknowledged and supported at whatever level is right for them. Could the current guidance be edited so it is less discouraging for those schools or practitioners who aren’t at the level required to be recognized providers? Something like “6 week programmes have many benefits and are an excellent introduction to forest school but the FSA considers that a longer programme is required to qualify as ‘long term’ for the purposes of the Recognized Provider Scheme ..? There are people out there who might, with the current wording, wonder if they are doing any good at all, which is a shame.. Also if, as seems clear from the comments, there are lots of members who won’t be eligible, please let’s have other membership options available to cater for everyone, in the interests of being inclusive? If the members map has caused difficulties ( I know people who never managed to get onto it even though they had sent in their certificates) can we have a county by county, contact list instead for the verified practitioners, visible to the general public?? This would be popular with some individual freelancers who used to get work from being on the map (I know I did) and maybe now feeling that they went through the verification process for nothing. It will also be extremely useful to local groups and members who may want to contact other local practitioners. Thanks to Gareth and the development officer for all the hard work so far.
I agree with several others; we have very rarely ever been able to deliver anything than a 6 week programme at our nature reserve. Schools are just not willing/able to fund longer term programmes, nor sort out the logistics of having half a class out for all that time, nor to have that much time ‘off curriculum’ in their eyes. It would be a shame not to be able to market what we offer as Forest School, as I think it is still valuable and to start calling it something slightly different will dilute it and confuse our customers.
I have a forest preschool which is open for 38 weeks a year, 5 hours a day, 4 days a week. The children attend for between 5 and 15 hours a week, the average being 10. Some attend for 1 year before starting school, others for 2 years or longer. We are located in a woodland with no buildings, just a bell tent during the harsh winter months to have lunch in. I would say we are meeting the criteria for principle 1. However it doesn’t appear to mention how long a session should be. On my training it was recommended a minimum 2 hour session. This could make a huge difference to the child. Obviously the longer the session the easier it will be for the child to become fully immersed in their play and become independant learners. I do agree that organisations offering Forest School need to adhere to the principles but for some this is a challenge for no fault of their own. Perhaps Jan’s suggestion of meeting 5/6 principles should be considered.
I agree with Nadia here. My trainer also recommended a minimum session length of two hours but where we are able to provide full day sessions, the outcomes are much more significant. The length of session needs to be included here as it will make a huge difference to the number of hours a child spends in the woods.
When I ran sessions in the pre-school I worked in the site we used wasn’t massive. So, to manage site degradation we didn’t run sessions during December and January/February. The rest of the time we ran a session each week during term time. The site had a chance to recover, but the children also experienced FS over a whole year and 3 seasons. We ‘just’ did outdoor ‘learning’ in the winter! Many schools and nurseries have similarly small sites and one has to question the value of FS on a severely degraded site. I recognise the value of all year round, but also feel that site management is often forgotten, though it shouldn’t be as a site management plan is an element of our training and ongoing practice.
The benefits of long term programmes are well documented and in the six years I ran a programme it was amazing to see how the children’s skills , knowledge and interests developed as the ‘experienced’ attendees showed the ‘newbies’ how to play and explore in the woods, and how my own practice changed and developed to support and meet their needs/ learning and development.
However, I also recognise the cost to settings/schools who have to buy in staff – if the setting seeks to be inclusive and provide FS for as many children as possible then the new criteria is sadly unaffordable as many have already commented.
It is good to have standards, but they need to be achievable and not elitist. What we all want is that the FS ethos permeates all practice and that the standards provide a benchmark that can be used to support practitioner’s working contracts and best practice.
Managing the impact on the site of long term programmes is another really important point.
I think the bench mark should be more achievable i.e. a minimum of 12 weeks. We mostly run 12 week programmes for nurture groups in schools and there are definitely benefits to the participants over this time (whether & how long this benefit lasts is debatable, though). When we’ve run year long or longer programmes, yes, the benefit has been massive and lasting BUT this is hardly ever possible due to financial constraints. I wonder if schools, who use teaching staff to deliver, have small groups and high ratios – I doubt it. I’m glad that FSA are tackling the issues that we’ve all been complaining about for a while but there’s no point in setting the bar so high that only a very small minority can reach it and everyone else feels alienated. Perhaps, once guidance notes for all the other principles are done, there could be a requirement to fully meet at least, say, 4 or 5 of the principles in order to be recognised as FS. For example, our delivery is in a woodland, with small groups and ratios of 1 adult to 3 participants (our FS is an intervention for those not thriving in mainstream education). We usually have 2 FSL3s or 1 FSL3 and one L2 plus volunteers who have had in-house training in FS ethos & who receive ongoing support and supervision – this is a minimum; most of our volunteers are also L2 trained. We rarely get the opportunity to run programmes longer than 12 weeks and only occasionally do the schools send the same pupils back for a further block. I believe that our programmes definitely qualify as “full-fat” FS, although of course the ideal would be that they are longer – it’s just not realistic. Contrast this with a school who has a member of staff in-house who is trained, who deliver FS in a corner of the playing field with the whole class & a few untrained adult helpers. Will the fact that they deliver for the whole year (although there don’t seem to be many schools who do) mean that their provision is more valid than mine? My point is, compromises have to, unfortunately be made. Personally, I think our provision meets all of the criteria (except under this new guidance it would fall short on principle 1) and I’m adamant that FS sessions should take place in a woodland or wild place and be with small groups. Finally, 12 weeks does cover 2 seasons – spring/summer or autumn/winter – both great times of year to see many changes & life cycles.
This seems to be deliberately exclusive – the very opposite of what Forest School is all about!
Primary Schools, like it or not, operate on a half term basis. Most half terms this year were 6 – 7 weeks long (with a few being much longer, to fit in with National holidays). Thetrefore many primary schools offer FS in 6 week blocks throughout the year. Since there are 6 year groups in Key Stage 1 and 2, this fits beautifully!And it means that each year group gets a block of FS each year, which is rotated through the seasons as they progress through the school.
If a 12 week minimum block is required, most schools simply won’t apply. Is this what you want?
A friend was talking to me about this yesterday and feels quite disheartened. She delivers FS across the school to every other year group, so Reception, Yr 2, Yr 4 and Yr 6. Classes are split into groups of 12 – 15 children to maintain ratios. There is no time during the academic year to offer further sessions so she will never be able to deliver recognised Forest School under the proposed criteria.
Thank you for your considered response to my comments. With regard to the suggestion that three month programmes don’t cover more than one season, I would contend that it does when delivered during the academic year, ie September/October – November/December (Autumn and Winter); January/February – March/April (Winter and Spring); April – June (Spring and Summer).
Apart from wrestling with where messages pop up and getting very confused about who has said what and in what order (its old age, I know) it is good to see members engaging in this discussion. I feel very strongly that we must make this principle inclusive rather than the first hurdle that excludes, and we will exclude most primary-school-based practitioners if we are not flexible enough to recognise that different client groups have different needs and can benefit from FS at different speeds. Young children can benefit from the developmental benefits of FS in a shorter time-frame than older children, teenagers and adults for whom it is a remediation and a healing. They should also experience all 4 seasons to most deeply appreciate their FS world and the sustainability issues revealed through that process. But primary schools just won’t engage with demands to do every week of every term, they tend to trim the terms to about 8 weeks. That is 24 weeks spread over the 4 seasons. When this is an opportunity for all, not a targeted minority group, that feels ‘good enough’. Not ideal, but a minimum. Looking at the graph in the intro of my ‘Forest School in Practice’ you can see that practitioners working with this group were almost the largest attending the last conference. This indicates the probability of some lively debates in July at Northrupp!
I agree with Sara.Can we reintroduce the thumbs up for the comments Garteth?
I strongly agree with Sara Knight’s thought process. I’ve worked voluntary for a year after qualifying just to get the standard and understanding for the need of ‘6 consecutive weeks’ in place which i understood from my training to be the acceptable minimum. i am now in my 3rd year and still pushing hard to maintain this level with a mixture of voluntary and paid sessions. with deeper cuts approaching fast, i fear many schools will suffer if the FSA cannot find a way to embrace a system that will make this way of practicing inclusive. A tier system of shorts sounds positive. 🙂
I agree totally with Kathy Grogan. Before making rigid rules that define a Forest School I think it would be more supportive for the FSA to be able to offer funding to enable groups to meet the criteria. I would also like to suggest that rather than state that a Forest School is not recognised unless it meets the new criteria, it could state that the new criteria is the ideal aim for a Forest School. I feel it will just alienate members who for reasons outside their control e.g. finance
Just a reminder – the FSA is the membership. Any ‘rules’ have to be by the shared agreement of the trained practitioners. We have always been a bottom-up organisation. Engage with the FSA by contributing to discussions like this, by attending the conferences and gatherings and by standing for election locally or nationally.
The FSA doesn’t have the wherewithal to offer funding – I am sure that your knowledge and experience of bidding for funds would make you a really useful contributor to the development process.
I am very new to all of this but have started paying attention. I am a childminder working with others and have up to 9 under 5’s every day. I have had several parents talking about “forest schools” but they mean somewhere they cook marshmallows on a fire. Looking at the above we are more forest school than the “forest schools” near us. We spend a minimum of 30% of the day in (as they are so young they get so cold in the wild Cornish weather so we come in for snacks and lunch to warm up) to up 80% of the day in our orchard with snacks and lunch outside and we come in for a cook evening meal. Much of what we do is linked to nature, we do this 49 weeks a year, but I am not currently FS trained.
Hmm good ones 36 weeks (school year)is the ideal I think and I’ve always managed to work in places that aim for that but I think 3 monthly programmes need recognition.
The school that I work for paid for me to be trained as a level 3 FSL, partly because they cannot continue to fund buying in the service of 2 FSL’s. I deliver sessions with another FSL for 10 weeks to each class of year 5, there are 3 classes. I have discussed the need to maintain the principles of FS and the need to extend the programme and although the HT is aware of the benefits there simply is not the money to fund it. There is also the problem of getting school staff who want to work outside in all weathers to support us. Also the factor of finding time to fit in Forest School within every year group in a curriculum that is already extremely demanding. I am aware that I have to constantly look for ways to evidence the learning taking place purely just to safeguard the sessions from budget cuts. If we called it outdoor learning I do wonder if it would still be running. I fully understand the frustration people feel and the need for clarification of principle 1, however I wondered how many other FSL’s were in a similar situation. What I would like to ask is as I would not be recognised as delivering Forest School by the association would this undermine the programme within the school and with the LEA? Also by needing to deliver for the whole year do you think this would limit FS to nurseries, small schools and specialist providers such as behaviour support and special schools?
I am very interested in the future of Forest School within state education and how you as an organisation visualise it.
It is ‘we as an organisation’, not ‘you as an organisation’. You are a member and your views count.
I agree that we need to consult the membership as to the definition of ‘long term’. These are membership-devised principles and therefore should have membership-devised definitions. It may well prove to be an age-related issue. Clearly, with older children and young adults where FS is part of a remediation programme then we are, indeed, talking years to be really effective. With the first years of primary then 8 or 10 weeks out of each 12 week term over three terms is about as realistic a target as we are going to get, and as it is about forming (rather than reforming) good habits and relationships and building strong foundations this should be an effective programme. Preschoolers may very well get a lot more, and hooray for that. Strong foundations allow them to build strong minds.
I agree Sara Knight, the impact of a long term programme does vary according to age/ability. I run programmes for secondary as therapeutic interventions, weekly for 3 years and on other days have primary groups that attend for 1 term each but return every year. Those primary returners (all with additional needs) demonstrate fantastic progression when they return in that they are immediately at home in the environment and have brilliant recall from sessions conducted on the previous year. Some are non verbal and have amazed staff with their ability to remember the site, our team, songs we’ve sung and how things are done. As a result of this guidance I am pushing for the classes to attend at a different time of year though, to better experience the seasons. The school is aiming for these SEN classes to attend throughout their primary years so we are monitoring their progress with much interest.
Like you Deb we run some extended programmes for children with additional needs which are funded. We also run twelve week programmes for children attending the PRU, which are repeated annually (or as funding dictates – our current project is three years). Many of these are SEND children whose needs cannot be addressed in mainstream schools and for whom places are not available at special school. When they return the following year, the difference the sessions have made in their confidence, self-esteem and resilience is very evident when compared with those children who have had no FS experience. I also run a term-time weekly group for under fives and six week blocks throughout the academic year for home educated families. My concern is how schools will generally be able to fit with this criteria. I’m also wondering about how funders will look upon twelve week programmes which support children who really need Forest School when the FSA potentially does not recognise them. This criteria could have a negative impact on funding, with the most needy children missing out altogether.
Thanks to the Directors for asking for comments. I do agree with the above. It is really positive that FSA are pushing for ‘quality’ and encouraging long term programmes, we were all frustrated by so much mis- use of the term forest school and clarification was really needed. I happen to qualify as I run long term programmes for secondary groups, a full day all year around during term time with participants attending for 3 years and some primary groups attending for one term and coming back each year. However I think I am especially lucky to be able to do that and I’m certainly not doing 52 weeks.If the criteria is going to be this tough, practitioners who can’t meet the criteria but are doing their very best to get there, still need the option to be featured as individual practitioners on the map? Please, lets have both options…
I meant that I agree with Kathryn Grogan! I can’t work out how to edit my comment which I expected to go below hers…
Hello. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this draft guidance. Whilst I appreciate the need for clarification of the words “long term” in the definition of a Forest School programme, I fear that not enough consideration has been given to this document. I am disappointed that, according to this guidance, even though I have worked hard to acquire funding for schools to double their six week programmes to twelve weeks, these programmes would not be recognised as Forest School by the FSA. It would not be possible – or acceptable to the funders –
to work with the same groups of children over several years. Most providers are passionate about Forest School and work extremely hard to ensure that the children in their care benefit from a valuable and significant experience. If what they provide ceases to be identified as Forest School in the light of this criteria, I wonder how high a priority membership of the FSA will be to them? After all, the ability to deliver to the same group of children throughout the year or over several years will be beyond the control of most practitioners.
I have a couple of specific queries regarding the wording of the guidance and some general questions:-
1. With regard to Notification 5.2(1):
1.1 The first example is that of attending sessions “every day, every week for 52 weeks of the year …” For even the most dedicated soul, perhaps a home educator trying to deliver Forest School to their children every day of the year, there would inevitably be days when the weather would force cancellations. Since most children access Forest School through their schools, which are open for about 39 weeks of the year, this would not be possible. Even nursery providers are not open on Saturdays and Sundays. In short, this is either a mistake or simply impossible.
1.2 Weekly attendance throughout the year might be possible for home educators and some kindergartens, but I don’t think it’s a very likely scenario given the requirement for attendance for 52 weeks of the year – there won’t be many people delivering their programmes during Christmas week, for example.
1.3 “Weekly sessions for 12 weeks or the equivalent of a full term of school” is possible for some schools who are able to access the funding, however the words “across several consecutive years” is not specific enough. For how many years are children expected to attend before they can be considered to have benefited from a genuine Forest School programme? Is it more important that the same children attend every year for “several years” than more children experience a twelve week programme at all?
2. If a six week programme cannot be recognised as Forest School, will there be a change in the training requirements? After all, there’s not much point in trainees delivering a six week programme to be assessed as Forest School leaders if six weeks is not Forest School as defined by the FSA. Perhaps there is a need to stress to trainers that it is made clear during the course that the six week programme provides the children with “An Introduction to Forest School” but cannot be considered the genuine article.
3. FSA has put forward this guidance after the launch of the Forest School Verification Scheme. Since there clearly needs to be a level playing field for all practitioners, will those practitioners who have already achieved verified status be re-assessed?
4. Is this guidance based on research? I would be particularly interested to see evidence that a twelve week programme is not beneficial unless it is repeated over “several years”. I think there are many of us who could provide evidence that this is not the case and have seen lives changed significantly following a twelve week programme.
5. Although I agree that a six week programme does not achieve the same level of outcomes as a twelve week one, I do believe they are extremely important and offer significant opportunities for attending children to connect with nature. In my experience, most of the children who attend these sessions are visiting a woodland for the first time in their lives and the experience is hugely beneficial.
In conclusion, I appreciate the need for clarification on this matter and I do apologise if these comments come across as harsh but, like many practitioners, I feel passionately about the work I do and this Guidance will undermine the efforts of hard-working FS leaders who are already working under constrained circumstances, particularly with school budgets the way they are. Perhaps the membership could be consulted in a more positive way about the clarification of Principle 1? eg asking what long-term means to them; what they currently deliver; whether budgets and the demands of the curriculum would allow for longer programmes? Perhaps a survey monkey to members? I have asked a few friends within the FS community and their suggestions are that the minimum length of programme should be 8 weeks with 10 weeks as the norm and 12 weeks as best practice; that trainees should have to deliver an 8 week programme; there is general agreement that six week programmes should be considered as “Introductions to Forest School”; I couldn’t find anyone who delivers FS for 52 weeks of the year. I look forward to seeing further development of this guidance.
To clarify …
There is no requirement to be doing 52 weeks of the year. This is simply an example of Forest School that would qualify. A forest School kindergarten may be a good example. If this is confusing to readers than it can be removed or altered.
Yes please Gareth, do remove the 52 weeks a year example!
“If a six week programme cannot be recognised as Forest School, will there be a change in the training requirements?”
The directors recognise that the L3 training requirement may well have influenced the evolution of 6 week introductory FS programmes. The FSA will be working with FS Trainers to try to overcome this confusion in the minds of trainees. Just because the L3 qual requires 6 sessions this does not mean that this is the minimum duration necessary for a FS course. FS is, according to the principles, long-term. While very worthwhile to do, 6 weeks is not long term and therefore is not a Forest school programme.
“FSA has put forward this guidance after the launch of the Forest School Verification Scheme. Since there clearly needs to be a level playing field for all practitioners, will those practitioners who have already achieved verified status be re-assessed?”
You may have noticed that we stopped adding recognised FS providers to the map after the first month. This was in order to resolve this question and a couple of other things that emerged once we started to get the applications in. There is a backlog of applications waiting for this question to be resolved.
To answer the question. Yes, the approved applications have been looked at again. Fortunately, all applications appear to meet the requirement. We always had an idea of long term meaning ‘through the seasons’ and this is what was applied at the time. Now we are just trying to clarify things for future applicants to prevent disappointment.
“I would be particularly interested to see evidence that a twelve week programme is not beneficial unless it is repeated over “several years”. ”
This gets straight to the heart of the grey area that we have been wrestling with. We know that a 12 week programme can be very beneficial. However, it clearly isn’t ‘long-term’ or ‘through the seasons’. We would also be very interested to know what members think about this.
” I have asked a few friends within the FS community and their suggestions are that the minimum length of programme should be 8 weeks with 10 weeks as the norm and 12 weeks as best practice”
I would be surprised if a 12 week programme were to come out of this consultation being promoted as ‘best practice’. There is an argument that a 12 week programme should be considered ‘Forest School’ rather than as an ‘Introduction to Forest School’. However, 12 weeks is not really long-term, as required under principle 1, being the equivalent of 1 season.
Sorry – I put my reply in the wrong place! Thank you for your considered response to my comments. With regard to the suggestion that three month programmes don’t cover more than one season, I would contend that it does when delivered during the academic year, ie September/October – November/December (Autumn and Winter); January/February – March/April (Winter and Spring); April – June (Spring and Summer).