Forest School training
Currently, FEI recognised Training/Qualifications include BTEC and Open College Network (OCN), or in Wales, Agored Cymru Forest School units. In Scotland, those supporting Forest School are seeking to have the Forest School qualification credit rated and recognised on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework, and the Forest School Association is seeking to establish the Forest School on the national qualifications framework.
Forest School Training levels
It is possible to train at different levels with Forest School. Whether you choose to train at Level 1, 2 or 3 will depend on your prior experience, time, resources, and whether you want to understand, assist or lead a Forest School programme.
Open College Network (OCN) Forest School Training is a formal recognised training route for adults wishing to set up or support a Forest School. All Forest School training providers have to deliver courses that meet the required OCN/ BTEC/ Agored Cymru Forest School syllabus and contact hours, although styles and method of training delivery and support may differ between providers.All courses require attendance of taught course time and setting aside time for self-study.The different levels of FS training within the OCN accreditation framework are:
- Introduction to Forest School OCN Level 1: This is an introduction to Forest School for practitioners wanting to support an existing Forest School or gain confidence and skills in working outdoors with children within their own setting (Approx. 1 contact day, 30 hourstaught/ self-study time total).
- Assistant Forest School Practitioner OCN Level 2: This award is for adults assisting a Forest School Leader on a regular basis. It involves submitting a portfolio of evidence based on a mix of theory and practice. This qualification takes at least 3 months to complete on a part-time basis. It is designed for people who want to work as assistants only, supporting an existing L3 qualified leader. (Approx. 6 contact days, 62 hours taught/ self-study time total).
- Forest School Practitioners Award OCN Level 3: This is the qualification to become a Forest School Leader and run a Forest School over a period of intensive training and assessment. Some providers can offer this over weekends. There are practical assignments and a portfolio to submit. This covers tasks such as safe tool use, lighting fires, den building and other skills. It also includes child development and how children learn. Part of the course involves identifying a suitable site, establishing and running 6 Forest School sessions. This includes creating a specific Forest School handbook for the site. It takes a minimum of 9 months to complete on a part-time basis. Level 3 training is available to teachers, support assistants, nurses, nursery nurses, etc., with relevant experience and is the minimum recognised level of training for Forest School leaders. Trainees will also require a paediatric first aid certificate with outdoor element. (Approx. 10 contact days, 182 hours taught/ self-study time total).
Why train as a Level 3 Forest School Leader?
- There is uniformity of philosophy & approach to Forest Schools and Forest Kindergarten within the UK.
- The courses are generally well run and feedback is often enthusiastic and positive.
- Practitioners develop a broad set of skills including training in ‘higher risk’ activities such as tool use, fire lighting and cooking. Outdoor first aid is also required for completing the course.
- Participants have to plan, deliver and evaluate a series of woodland sessions with children as part of the coursework. It is very hands-on.
- A person who achieves Level 3 certification may organise and deliver training sessions at Levels 1 & Levels 2, if they have additional teaching or equivalent qualifications and are registered with the relevant awarding bodies to deliver accredited FS courses. Detailed advice on this is available from the GB Forest School Trainers Network [link to be added].
Please note however:
- The Level 3 training is intensive and a significant time commitment. Some training providers offer a modular approach in their courses to allow progression across levels of training.
- The training is aimed at working with children of all ages, which may not suit Early Years practitioners unless they attend a bespoke course. This group may prefer to explore Forest Kindergarten or other training models [link to be added].
- The cost of training a person to Level 3 can be high especially if supply cover is required for class committed teachers, unless training is offered over weekend days. You need to have relevant experience of working with children to take the Level 3 training.
First Aid training for Forest School
Before you can lead Forest Schools, you need a first aid qualification. A Paediatric First Aid in Outdoor Settings course (16 hours) is suitable for anyone who may encounter a medical emergency in a non-traditional setting such as Forest School, where improvisational first aid skills are crucial to a successful outcome. Such a course should equip participants with skills and strategies to care for the infants, children and adults involved both in indoor and outdoor activities.
Those embarking on the Level Three Forest School Practitioner course will need to ensure that they have appropriate and adequate First Aid training. This may be organised by your Forest School training provider. This training will need to be updated every three years and, as recommended by the HSE, refreshed on an annual basis.
The Paediatric First Aid in Outdoor Settings course should meet the recommendations of the HSE Health and Safety First Aid at Work Regulations for Appointed Persons in the Workplace. Also refer to your local Education authority guidance.
In Scotland, further guidance is also provided by Education Scotland in Planning Outdoor Learning.