In combination with our high regard for the outdoors as a learning resource we offer forest school to the children who attend the nursery school. The forest school experience is run by a qualified teacher and forest school leader. Randolph Beresford Forest School is recognised locally, nationally and internationally as one that stays true to the original forest school ethos.
The ethos of Forest School is based on a fundamental respect for children and young people and for their capacity to instigate, test and maintain curiosity in the world around them. It believes in children's right to play; the right to access the outdoors and natural woodland environments, the right to access risk and the vibrant reality of the natural world; and the right to experience a healthy range of emotions, through all the challenges of social interaction, to build a resilience that will enable continued and creative engagement with their peers and their potential.
Forest School is based more on the process of learning than it is on the content - more on the 'how' than the 'what'. This means that genuine Forest School practice steps boldly out of the shadow and limitation of adult controlled learning and ventures collaboratively into the realms of the sometimes unplanned, unexpected and ultimately unlimited. Children are encouraged to direct their own learning - this can require catalyse on the part of the practitioners either through engaging in stimulating play or through 'scaffolding' a child's learning.
The combination of experienced staff and a woodland environment is central in supporting this very dynamic approach to learning. An infinite source of natural resources stimulates senses, language, creativity, enjoyment, problem solving and thinking. Learners organise their own routines and agendas to create an environment where high level learning occurs naturally. The instigation, development, refinement, testing of theories and revisiting of experiences can meet individual children's needs and learning styles.
Feedback from Tim Gill's visit to our forest school
The great strength of Forest School programmes is their potential to open up children's hearts, minds and spirits through allowing them the freedom to explore novel, stimulating outdoor spaces, helped by thoughtful, respectful educators. Children gain a sense of their abilities, build their resilience and home their perseverance. They take on new challenges; discover things for themselves and work together to see projects through, learning and talking about their experiences all along the way. These experiences are particularly important for children who may struggle in more constrained and closely supervised contexts.
Sadly, not all Forest School programmes realise this potential. It takes a close, empathetic connection with children and a rich understanding of what helps and hinders their learning to know when to hold back and when - and how - to step in.
I first came across Jo's work nearly 10 years ago, and have reconnected a number of times since (twice with international experts). The reason I keep coming back is because her practice consistently shows the connection, understanding and sound judgement that best unlocks children's learning in the outdoors.
As patron of the Forest School Association, I am committed to the approach. But it is when it is put into practice in the rigorous, thoughtful, child-focused way that I see with Jo and her team that Forest School is at its most powerful.
Tim Gill is one of the UK’s leading thinkers on childhood, and an effective advocate for positive change in children’s everyday lives. His writing, research, consultancy projects and other work focus on the changing nature of childhood, children’s play and free time, and their evolving relationships with the people and places around them. His work cuts across education, child care, planning, design and playwork, and engages with academics, practitioners, policy makers and the wider public.
The construction of our forest school site, outdoor classroom and training centre is providing many new learning opportunities for the children.
Our outdoor classroom is now being used by all the children. The children have named the area 'little forest school' In addition to our three times per week visits to forest school, children have access to the play and learning opportunities this area offers. Groups of children will use the outdoor classroom and surrounding area with their key worker, the other children in their key group and forest school leader.