“What are you going to do about all these new ‘Forest Schools’ opening up that aren’t even doing Forest School?. I get asked this question at least once a week. It is a serious problem and the Forest School world knows it. Every outdoor activity setting that says it is doing ‘Forest School’ when it isn’t dilutes the Forest School ‘brand’ and our ability to promote and protect the core principles and values of Forest School.
These are tricky waters to navigate. Forest School providers often also provide non-Forest School activities to supplement their income. The best ones make a clear distinction between the two. In many settings, good Forest School leaders come under pressure to modify the principles for Forest School. They may be told to deliver to more children or over a short time frame that is not appropriate for Forest School. Funding is often time limited and the pressure is to accept contracts with these conditions or go without vital income.
The principles of Forest School are clear and therefore it is possible to assess if you are providing forest School.
So, what is the role of the FSA in all this? We have always had a fundamental tension between wanting to operate in a cooperative and encouraging way (Forest School) and calls for us to act as the ‘Forest School police’. For me it is clear that we are not a ‘governing body’. However, we ARE a professional body. We have a role in highlighting best practice and in encouraging this to be followed.
‘Badging’ may not be very Forest School in approach but it is clear to the FSA board that we need a means to publicly recognise organisations that are actually Forest School providers. To this end we have developed the FSA Recognised Forest School Provider scheme. There are a number of associated member benefits but, in our view, the main one is use of the following badge that demonstrates FSA recognition as a Forest School provider.
Badging and recognition is not its own end. The purpose of this scheme is to highlight those organisations that are providing Forest School and encourage those that are not to do so. I am particularly mindful of those Forest School Leaders who will be supported by this scheme. How much easier will it be for them to make a case for offering quality Forest School if formal recognition can be achieved for doing so?
We want to support good practise and good forest School Leaders. However, to do this, we will need this scheme to be successful. I would therefore invite you to take a look at the scheme and to consider applying. Amongst the information you’ll find a handy self-assessment tool to support your decision to apply:
One great benefit is that all approved members will appear on a publicly searchable database of FSA recognised Forest School providers.
Now that the Recognised Forest School Provider scheme has been launched the Verified Forest School Practitioner scheme has been frozen. No new members will be added to that map. The continued use of the Verified Forest School Practitioner map on the website will be reviewed in September 2017. It is our hope that Verified Practitioners will encourage their schools and other organisations to take up the more comprehensive Recognised Forest School Provider scheme in order to demonstrate that their Forest School provision is recognised by the professional body.
Gareth Wyn Davies
I find Forest School defined as a “brand” objectionable. I thought it was a pedagogy, even a philosophy. A brand can be bought like a franchise. I was proud to be on the verified practitioners map. I have always paid my own FSA membership fee but now if the practitioner map is removed in September 2017 it will feel like being Level 3 training it is no longer good enough.
I too do not like it when people/schools/organisations say they are doing Forest School when they have not trained but I think there 2 problems which this scheme will not solve.
1. Those who highjack the “Forest School” description to try to promote their outdoor learning delivery will continue to do so despite the recognised providers scheme.
2. Those Forest School Leaders who are not able to adhere to all the principles all the time will not have the power to get the school they work for or are contracted to join the scheme.
I am afraid that this provider scheme does not seem encouraging instead it seems fundamentalist in attitude and not inclusive, encouraging or co-operative. Keeping to the principles is aspirational and a badge for organisations for doing so is all well and good but it does not reflect the pressures that practitioners experience in the real world of 21st century UK education. I loved and lived Forest School from my first training in 2010 but working in an area where it was virtually unknown it was not possible to make demands to keep to all the principles all the time. I did the best possible in the circumstances and have continued to champion Forest School in the locality. This scheme is making me feel the same way the Ofsted process did. I no longer feel worthy! I would like the FSA to promote, champion and celebrate best practise so others can see the way forward not become an exclusive club.
I don’t teach full time anymore but still deliver Nature Play and a Forest School to my old school. I am now a freelancer who has always clearly defined what is my Forest School offer and what other learning workshops and experiences I can provide so I would like to think I would be considered one of the better providers. Please note I offer a variety not because I am under financial or contractual pressures or seek to dilute the “brand” but because I am an experienced educator with a repertoire of competencies including Forest School. I am a very small organisation who would like to continue to be mapped as a verified practitioner but I do not want to spend more to be a recognised organisation and buy into the “brand”.
Congratulations for puting this matter on the table! It is a very important task the Quality of the service and that FSA colud recognise this. It is a big thing, not easy, but you have open the box ?
Thanks Paula. A team effort but pulled together by Lisa Pearce our Development Officer. Directors have also given a huge amount of their time to move this forward.