How to choose a good Forest School trainer(Questions answered for you in blue from the Forest School Association Website)
The first thing to ask when searching for a Forest School trainer is whether Forest School training is what you're really looking for. Have a look at What is Forest School? if you need more information about what Forest School is. You can find links to other forms of outdoor learning here. Some Forest School trainers also offer other forms of outdoor learning training, as well as CPD for Forest School practitioners.
We offer Outdoor Learning Qualifications and Forest School Qualifications. We offer modular training, so that you can start with a Level 1 or 2 in Outdoor Learning or Forest School, and build up your modules as you go along so that you can 'top-up' to a Level 3 in Outdoor Learning or Forest School at a later date. This offers you maximum flexibility as you may want to start your outdoor learning or forest school journey now, but perhaps it isn't the right time for you to do a long course due to work or family commitments or you wish to develop your experience. The modular pathway means that you don't lose out on any money you have spent on a Level 1 or 2 qualification, as we recognise the modules you have already done and you just need to pay for the modules you need for the next level.
When making your decision about which trainer to go with, one of the things you may go on is recommendations from colleagues – it is worth clarifying what it was that made the training worthwhile. As the reputable philosopher and educator, John Dewey, said 'did you take pleasure in the learning?'. How empowering was the training? Many an inspiring trainer there has been, but did the training:
really give a deep connection and understanding of Forest School;
help trainees deeply reflect on the learning;
equip and inspire trainees to continue learning about Forest School;
challenge and even change perspectives
equip trainees to start confidently helping at Forest School (levels 1 & 2) or start being the main practitioner (Level 3).
In order to facilitate a deep connection and understanding of Forest School, we offer an immersive experience deep in National Trust Woodland on the Ancient English Ridgeway. We are surrounded by ancient woodland and greenwood workers and demonstrators. You have the opportunity not only to immerse yourself in the experience with woodland flora and fauna and woodland skills, but also to experience real forest school sessions with different groups of children. In this way, your training is inspirational and the connection is deep and impactful because you are living the Forest School life during your training rather than observing it from a classroom.
What to ask a prospective trainer What does the training cover? We know this is an obvious question but from this question you will get a feel for what they know, their ethos and what they cover – do ask for the detail.
When you initially apply we send you an information form with all the details of the training covered. When you register on the course you a receive a handbook before you start training which tells you in more detail how to prepare and gives you detailed information on the course.
Do I get a recognised certificated award and from which awarding body? This should not just be a certificate of attendance.
You receive a recognised certificated award from the QCF, the nationally recognised awarding body. As it is a British qualification it is also recognised internationally.
How much experience has the trainer of delivering Forest School programmes? The Forest School trainers network requires trainers to have a minimum of two years' experience with at least one long term programme, preferably covering a whole year with one group regularly attending on a weekly basis.
I have been delivering Forest School programmes, all year round, in a variety of sites from school grounds, community sites, woodlands and SSSI sites since 2009. Most of my client groups attend all year round and I have long term relationships with schools, nurseries and community groups with whom I deliver sessions all year round.
How much experience does the trainer have of working with learners of various ages in the practical elements of Forest School? I have been a FS Practitioner since 2009 working all year round with various age groups. I have worked with Nursery, Family Groups, Pre-school, Primary, Secondary, SEN and PRU. I have also delivered Outdoor Learning programmes, and deliver qualifications for Outdoor Learning and Forest School Training. I have a licence with the National Trust to use their woodlands, I am a Trustee for a Community Centre Woodland Site which I use; I also work in school grounds, public sites, urban areas, SSSI sites and Woodland Trust Sites.
What is the breadth of outdoor learning experience and do they have experience of delivering Forest School to your type of client group?
I began my outdoor learning career as a Training Officer in the Royal Air Force. I specialised in analysing designing and delivering team and leadership training both indoors and outdoors; basic military outdoor survival training; psychometric qualifications and educational development. I analysed, designed and delivered new training solutions to solve problems and enable teams to learn new skills, often in austere outdoor environments.
After the military, I undertook a Masters Degree in Outdoor Learning at the University of Cumbria and was invited back to lecture on the same programme to outdoor facilitators, Heads of Outdoor Education Centres and outdoor professionals. Upon moving to the Wiltshire area I set up my practice delivering Forest School and Outdoor Learning to communities, schools and groups all year round.
I am both a Forest School practitioner and a Forest School Trainer, so I work with and understand the current issues in schools and communities. In addition to freelance work and training, I have long term relationships with a Pre-school, community group, primary and secondary school so I understand and have been instrumental in developing long term programmes and understand how to solve stressors and problems.
I have current experience with family, community, Nursery, Pre-school, Primary, Secondary, SEN and PRU client groups.
How recent is their Forest School practice?
I am a current working Forest School Practitioner and Trainer.
Is the trainer connected to local Forest Schools and local networks that can support you in your training and practice?
I am a member of the Cambium Network of Trainers who continuously support and monitor national standardisation, CPD and quality. I am a member of the Forest School Association and the Wiltshire Representative for the Forest School Association South West. I regularly advertise free meet ups and skill share days for FS and Outdoor Learning folk. Trainees are very welcome to observe my sessions (by prior arrangement) and I regularly help out those interested by informing them of local sessions and networks.
Is the trainer connected to any national support and local support? This includes support other than practitioners and settings eg FSA, FEN, FSW, FEI, resources, other networks.
I am a member of the Institute of Outdoor Learning and the Outdoor Learning Research Hub. I regularly attend local business network meetings and maintain connections with local outdoor practitioners.
Is the trainer up to date with the challenges and/or initiatives you may have in your type of setting? I love talking to people about outdoor learning and forest school, and I am more than happy to chat to you about any challenges / initiatives you have in your setting. I have a range of experience, please just fire away any questions and I will either be able to answer your question or connect you with someone who does know. What training experience does the trainer have? We would recommend you check out their own training experience (by this we mean training others to educate) and not just Forest School training – do they have a breadth of training experience to pull on?
I have taught at University Masters Level in Outdoor Learning; I am a qualified Level 4 Forest School Trainer and Outdoor Learning Trainer qualified to teach at Level 1, 2 and 3; I am a qualified instructor and train- the- trainer in Training Needs Analysis; High Ropes; Mobile Team Challenge; Strength Deployment Inventory
What recent CPD and training has the trainer had? This could include the most recent books they have read through to courses attended or mentoring from other trainers.
Each Year I undertake CPD - please see my blog for CPD write ups (this section is being updated, this is not a complete list):
In 2017 Mental Health First Aid Stress and Resilience
In 2016 Cross-country ski expedition across the Hardangervidda Plateau, Norway, with Artic Survival skills and bushcraft.
What is their own Forest School philosophy and is there an ethos that runs through their Forest School training practice?
We adhere to the Forest School Principles as outlined by the Forest School Association - please see the 'Standards' section.
What does the training look like, how does it reflect the learner centred, community-building pedagogy of Forest School?
The training is run deep in the woodlands - as a group we collaboratively set up our Forest School basecamp just as you would on your site. This enables you to have practical experience setting up a site safely and experience all the kit and skills needed, while simultaneously achieving the learning objectives of the course. The learning is led by the trainer but all students deliver and are assessed by each other during the course. This allows the trainer to deliver the initial guidance and ensure everyone is achieving the skills up to the standard required, but allows you to have practical experience of teaching and assessing each other's skills. Again, this is an immersive practical experience which allows you to learn and simultaneously achieve your objectives. We need to develop a supportive relationship with you and your site / setting as we will be coming out to observe you in your delivery of a Forest School session for your final assessment. We also provide support in person, by phone and email during the whole of your portfolio write up. Therefore we develop a relationship with you and your site, and on all of our courses the trainees set up a network of support amongst themselves, often visiting each other's sites to develop their best practice. Combine this with our open invitation for you to come back to our skillshare days, our CPD days and observe on our Forest School sessions mean that we have developed a supportive community amongst our colleagues and trainees.
What experience and/or qualifications does the trainer have in ecological management of sites, in particular woodlands?
I am a Trustee for a Community Woodland site and I advise and help manage this site. I have a licence and close relationship with the National Trust on whose sites I run courses, so I also work very closely with them and their ecological manegment.
What practical skills and experience does the trainer bring to the training, particularly relating to tools, fire and woodland management?
I have a range of practical experience from my military background relating to tools and fire, based on British, US and Arctic bushcraft. In addition I have been running Forest School all year round on a variety of sites from SSI, waterlogged woodlands and dangerously dry summer sites so I have problem solved most of the firelighting and tool issues in a variety of areas. With regards to woodland management, I have worked in SSI, National Trust, young and ancient woodland and work in harmony with the woodland management policies.
How does the trainer assess the competencies required of a Forest School practitioner? Training providers should be using a variety of assessment processes to check their trainees are meeting the assessment criteria/competencies outlined in the qualification. Assessment methods need to be fair and accessible to trainees and appropriate for the criteria they are assessing. Trainees should be supported in doing the assessment methods chosen by the trainer.
Trainees are assessed using a variety of methods. I also have experience designing and accepting assessment methods for students with different learning needs such as dyslexia. Trainees are assessed practically for practical skills such as tools, fire and rope work. During training days, trainees can be assessed using group discussion, diagrams, written work, tutor observation, peer observation, scenario based assessment, individual responses, oral evidence, visual evidence, video or digital evidence. Portfolios can be submitted with evidence in oral, digital or written form. Trainees are assessed in their chosen setting or workplace for their practical delivery of Forest School. However, we run an open access forest school so that trainees without a client group or setting can use our site for their assessments.
Here are some of the common assessment methods used by Forest School trainers; · Written assessments; which includes anything from writing up simple instructions on how to make Forest School artefacts, policy and procedures, risk assessments through to essay style writing that often relates the pedagogy of Forest School to established educational theory. · Trainer observation of trainees practical skills undertaken during the course delivery · Trainer observation of delivery of Forest School in the trainees own settings · Trainer observation of trainees discussions · Oral question and answer sessions between trainer and trainee · Scenario based assessments observed by the trainer and/or peers · Peer based assessments on delivery of Forest School and practical skills (this is particularly applicable to level 1 and 2 qualifications.) Not all trainers use all these methods, what's important is - are they appropriate. It is worth asking of prospective training providers which ones are used and how they relate to the criteria. We also recommend asking how trainees are supported in the different assessment methods used by the trainer. For more information on assessment methods see http://www.ocnwmr.org.uk/centres/assessment-and-evidence What sort of ongoing support is available? For example does it include supporting handouts, downloadable materials, e-mail contact, telephone contact, tutorials, site visits?
Trainees have access to online resources; downloadable resources; handouts; handbook; email; tutor meetings and consultations; tutorials; workshops; phone contact; site visit.
Are expectations of the trainees made clear? For example how much time on each element is required/needed. How much contact time with the trainer (35% is normally a minimum). What equipment is required. Are terms and conditions and entry criteria spelled out?
Expectations of trainees are set out clearly in the handbook which accompanies each course. All students receive a timetable and objectives, assessed criteria, handouts and references and online links are listed against each subject covered. The students receive 7 days of practical training contact time with the tutor; one portfolio workshop day and a site visit day. Students are encouraged to keep in contact with their tutor during the portfolio phase for regular feedback by email and phone.
What type of venue is used? Does it demonstrate Forest School practice? The venue used is an active Forest School site, and students have the opportunity to observe Forest School sessions at 2 other sites, both of which demonstrate Forest School Good Practice as outlined in the Principles.
Does the training take care of your basic needs? Food, warmth, access etc. A full kit list is issued before the course. We ensure all your basic needs are met, in addition there is always tasty food, warm and cold drinks and snacks, toilet facilities, a supportive trainer, good chat and a good sense of humour and care in the group.
Does the Level 3 training include first aid? Or does the trainer work with a recognised first aid provider whose course covers outdoor first aid for Forest School practitioners? Does any first aid training include paediatrics for those working with early years groups? First aid training should use a hands-on real life approach and works outside in the woods with real Forest School scenarios. What sort of experience does the first aid provider have in first aid?
Due to the differing needs of Forest School Practitioner for First Aid, we hold a list of First Aid courses in the area on our website, so that you can select one relevant to your needs and available dates. Forest Aid courses vary in price so following feedback from trainees, we show you a choice in the area so you can select the best value course for you, rather than tying you in.
The trainer will always hold an appropriate First Aid Certificate, usually a 16 hr Outdoor First Aid Qualification which is the industry standard.
What type of insurance does the trainer hold? They should have at least public and personal liability. The trainer will always hold full public and personal liability for the activities required.
What standardisation and/or quality review processes does the trainer have in place? This is normally monitored by the awarding body however it is worth asking the question so you know the qualification you are getting is robust and up to date with practise. The QCF Qualification is reviewed at National Level. As a member of the Cambium Network of Trainers, we review all of our qualifications in line with national standards and updates annually and they are updated every 3 years to reflect trainee feedback, national updates and qualification changes. We hold standardisation and marking meetings annually to ensure all assessment is fair and standardised.
What qualifications does the trainer have? In order to deliver any accredited qualification (in England and Wales) the trainer is required to have a minimum of a level 4. This is the case for all the levels of Forest School awards. This may be a PTTLs level 4, or a secondary teaching qualification, going up to masters level. I hold a Master's Degree in Outdoor Learning and Development, a BA Hons Degree in English and Art; Forest School Level 4 Qualification; and a Coaching and Mentoring Diploma. What is their completion rate and what is their pass rate? Completion does not necessarily mean pass! We have a completion and pass rate of 100 per cent, as we work closely with trainees to support them throughout the process. This means we are not the largest Forest School Training provider as it would be impossible to support all of our trainees to the level we would be happy with without sacrificing contact time. However, we pride ourselves on small group instruction, individual attention and quality over quantity as this is coherent with Forest School Principles.
And finally how do they sound and what is the cost? You will need to match this to what is offered as there are varying costs between providers. They will relate to what you are getting – for example some courses have more contact time than others, some include food and some don’t etc. Do you have to pay for anything extra? Are the costs transparent?
We are always happy to chat through any questions you may have, email us or phone - we can always call you back at a time convenient for you. I am always happy to send out information if you would like to have a read through while you consider which options are best for you. I will never pressure you to take on a course that is not right for you.
All of the course fees are clearly displayed on the course dates page. There are no hidden extras. For the majority of the courses the joining instructions ask you to bring your own lunch, where food is provided this is indicated. Tea, coffee, water, snacks are all provided on all courses.