What is Forest School?

Watch this 5 min video for a quick summary of Forest School.

Forest School is a child-centred inspirational learning process, that offers opportunities for holistic growth through regular sessions. It is a long-term program that supports play, exploration and supported risk taking. It develops confidence and self-esteem through learner inspired, hands-on experiences in a natural setting.

Forest School has a developmental ethos shared by thousands of trained practitioners around the world, who are constantly developing their learning styles and skills to support new and imaginative learners. Its roots reach back to the open-air culture, friluftsliv, or free air life, seen as a way of life in Scandinavia where Forest School began. It arrived in the UK in 1993 and has grown from strength to strength since then.

Learn more about the History of Forest School in the UK .

The process helps and facilitates more than knowledge-gathering, it helps learners develop socially, emotionally, spiritually, physically and intellectually. It creates a safe, non-judgemental nurturing environment for learners to try stuff out and take risks. Forest School inspires a deep and meaningful connection to the world and an understanding of how a learner fits within it. Our approach to risk means that learners constantly expand on their abilities by solving real-world issues, building self-belief and resilience. We believe that risk is more than just potential for physical harm, but a more holistic thing, there are risks in everything we do, and we grow by overcoming them. Forest School therefore, helps participants to become, healthy, resilient, creative and independent learners.

There is lots of research out there to support the outcomes of Forest School, but we know that it isn’t just the educational outcomes and research that matter, our learners and leaders love it too!

Forest School is a feeling you can’t put into words.


aged 9

I don’t have ADHD when I am out in the woods.


aged 14

After over 15 years working in Forest school, I have had the privilege to watch the pedagogy help selective mute learners find their voice, troubled learners find a more stable path, and watch children at risk of imprisonment because of their behaviour ‘singing’ with glee whilst sitting on a bench they had made from scratch, using hand tools that they never thought they would be allowed to hold. This is the real power of Forest School.


aged 46

What is quality Forest School?

Quality Forest School is delivery which holds to all six key principles that shape and govern the Forest School ethos. There are many forms of outdoor education and all have enormous value, however, Forest School is unique in its reach, delivery and effect. These six principles are:

  1. Forest School is a long-term process of regular sessions, rather than one-off or infrequent visits; the cycle of planning, observation, adaptation and review links each session.
  2. Forest School takes place in a woodland or natural environment to support the development of a lifelong relationship between the learner and the natural world.
  3. Forest School uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for being, development and learning.
  4. Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.
  5. Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
  6. Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners, who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.

See the full principles and criteria for good practice

It is only when we see the 6 principles working together do we truly see the value of Forest School. Underpinning our principles are some positive core beliefs. These can be summarised as, learners are all:

• equal, unique and valuable
• competent to explore & discover
• entitled to experience appropriate risk and challenge
• entitled to choose, and to initiate and drive their own learning and development
• entitled to experience regular success
• entitled to develop positive relationships with themselves and other people
• entitled to develop a strong, positive relationship with their natural world

Forest School’s learner-centred approach interweaves with the ever-changing moods and marvels, potential and challenges of the natural world through the seasons to fill every Forest School session and programme with discovery and difference. Making each session and every experience a valuable one.


To help you find out more about Quality Forest School the FSA have produced an in-depth presentation and video package – 50m mins (below).

Thinking of trying to persuade your school to take on Forest School? FSA members may access the PowerPoint template with extensive support notes and animations.


What is an FSA Recognised Forest School Provider?
FSA recognised providers undergo a regular evaluation process to ensure that they meet the minimum benchmarks of a quality Forest School. Find out more.

Find a Forest School near you!


What is the Forest School Association?

The Forest School Association is the Professional Body for Forest School in the United Kingdom. As a Registered Charity, we rely on membership to help us grow quality Forest School across the country.

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