How to choose a Forest School trainer
The FSA only recognises certain Level 3 Forest School qualifications, so if you or your setting might wish to become an FSA Recognised Forest School Provider in the future, you need to choose a trainer who offers an FSA recognised qualification. All FSA Endorsed Forest School Trainers offer a Level 3 qualification that we recognise. There is also an up-to-date list on the FSA website that details all of the Awarding Organisations currently supported by the FSA and the qualifications.
We advocate researching different trainers carefully, exploring their websites and social media, and having conversations with a couple before coming to a decision. Different training approaches will work for different people, and different trainers have experience working with different client groups (see the section on ‘Which client group do you want to work with?’ in the FSA book).
Questions about the training and the course structure
Your research about or conversation with a potential trainer might explore a variety of questions about the training course, such as:
- What does the training cover?
- Does the course include First Aid training with paediatric and outdoor elements?
- Do I get a recognised certificated award, and from which awarding body?
- How long have you facilitated Forest School training specifically?
- How do you model the Forest School ethos and principles in your training?
- What format do your training courses take? Intensive weeks? Weekends once per month? Days spread over a year?
- What type of venue is used?
- How much of the content is delivered outdoors?
- How much does the course cost?
- Where does the course take place?
- If you require overnight accommodation, what are the local options?
Finding out more about your trainer
You may also want to find out about the trainer themselves, so may wish to explore a variety of questions such as:
- What experience and/or qualifications do you have relating to ecology and conservation management?
- Do you have past and current experience of facilitating Forest School yourself? With which client groups?
- Do you have experience of working with my chosen client group?
- What sorts of CPD have you been involved in recently yourself?
- How long have you been training educators?
- Have you recently visited a setting like mine that facilitates Forest School?
- Are you connected to any national organisations?
- Are you connected to a local Forest School network through which I can access ongoing support and CPD?
- What Level 4 or equivalent training qualification do you hold?
- What is your own area of interest within the practical skills: fire, tools and/or woodland management?
- How many Level 3s do you train each year? What proportion complete the course? What proportion pass the qualification?
- How can you cater for my particular learning requirement (if relevant)?
- How do you support students outside of the face-to-face days with you?
- What equipment do I need to have? What equipment is provided?
- Do you have your own Public Liability Insurance and Professional Indemnity Insurance in place?
Talking to other trainees
One other potentially illuminating way to research who to train with is to speak with other Level 3 Forest School leaders who trained with different people; ask them about their own training experience, perhaps using questions such as:
- Do you feel your training prepared you well for the role of Forest School leader?
- What was the learning environment like?
- How many days did you spend face-to-face with the trainer in the woods?
- What personal qualities did the trainer bring to the course?
- How did you feel after a day of training?
- Was your training fun?
- Was your training challenging? In which ways?
- How have your perspectives altered as a result of the training?
- Did you feel supported during the course and do you still feel supported post-qualification?
Reflecting on your findings
Following your conversation with a potential trainer you might like to take some time to reflect using the following questions:
- Do you feel a connection with the trainer; did you click?
- Do you feel sure that the course they offer is of high quality?
- Do you feel that the course they offer will give you the knowledge and skills you need to be a confident Forest School leader?
- Will you be offered full support throughout (and beyond) your training period?
- If you think you may wish to eventually become an FSA Recognised Forest School Provider, will you end up with a qualification that is recognised by the FSA?
- Does the course format and method of assessment suit your requirements?