Three Bristol primary schools, Luckwell, Ashton Vale and Compass Point, along with Redland Green and Ashton Park Gatehouse secondary schools, will now have access to the highest quality forest school experience as a result of the Gatehouse Green Learning Trust becoming the first provider in the Bristol area to be accredited by the Forest School Association.

Forest school is a learning approach based in a woodland or natural environment with trees. It offers participants regular opportunities to develop self-confidence and esteem through hands-on learning experiences. Its roots reach back to early years pioneers in outdoor learning in Scandinavia.

Helen Prewett, the trust’s forest school leader, has worked hard to establish the provision, initially at Luckwell, and to fulfil the six principles of the FSA Recognised Forest School Provider scheme, which ensure that high standards of health and safety and education are met.  

She is bursting with ideas for sharing Luckwell’s good forest school practice as soon as the Covid-19 pandemic is over.

Ashton Vale and Compass Point, like Luckwell, have on-site forest school areas, for use by children in all year groups, and the trust has exciting plans to develop a forest school site at Ashton Park for use by trust students and others, led by qualified professionals.

Meanwhile, Helen is sharing some ideas on a page on the trust’s website and on social media, showing how families can enjoy developing forest school skills, which encourage play, exploration and supported risk-taking.

“We are so thrilled to have become a Recognised Forest School Provider and it is frustrating not to be able to work across the sites straight away,” she said. “However, the months of lockdowns have really reinforced the importance of the natural environment on people’s wellbeing, so we feel sure that having this high-quality offer in our schools will be something that families and prospective parents will really value.”

Stuart McClelland, executive headteacher at GGLT, said: “The children really love their regular forest school sessions and our staff are committed to the benefits this child-led learning brings. Being a recognised provider literally puts on the map – parents can find us on the publicly searchable Forest School Association website.”

Gareth Wyn Davies (CEO of the Forest School Association), added “Good forest school practice is being followed by dedicated professionals all over the UK. Our scheme helps people identify those providers who are following good forest school practice and distinguishes them from other outdoor education that is not forest school. We therefore congratulate Gatehouse Green Learning Truston their success at becoming an approved ‘good practice’ provider.”

To find out more, visit the GGLT website or the Forest School Association website