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Forest School

What is outdoor learning/forest school at Madley ? 


At Madley we believe that outdoor learning/forest school is a core element of a child's development alongside academic, social and creative success. Every child (from Reception to Year 6 undertakes forest school/outdoor learning every week (older children have a full day at our amazing site every fortnight).


We have 13 Level 3 forest school leaders and we host training courses (with Forest School Learning Initiative). Learning is linked to the National Curriculum (using the National Curriculum Outdoors) and everything we do has a purpose and impactful outcome.  


It is linked to our Eco Schools work (a Green Flag School for over 14 years) to develop a wider understanding of our environment both locally, nationally and globally. 


It is also an intrinsic aspect of our health and well being philosophy through both physical activity, time in the outdoors and managing our well being. 

What is Forest School? 

Forest School is not a new trendy concept. As early as the 1800’s Philosophers, Naturalists and Educators across Europe have been exploring the virtues of outdoor learning. 


In the 1970’s the education system moved towards a teacher/outcome centred approach, in attempt to improve literacy and numeracy. As a response to this an “alternative” educational model was formed and so Forest School (as we now know it) emerged. 


In the early 1990’s a group of nursery practitioners went to Scandinavia to study the open-air culture (Frulitsliv) in pre-schools. They came back to the UK enthused and they created a similar child-centered/play based pedagogy based on the Scandinavian model. 



What are the guiding principles of Forest School? 

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

Madley Primary School Forest School Vision Statement 

Forest School is about exploration, resilience and learning in a stimulating relaxing and enriched environment. It allows our children “Freedom with purpose” to connect with the outdoor environment and everything that entails. Forest School promotes risk taking, independence and self-awareness for all children (and adults). 


Here at Madley we have been running regular Forest School sessions for over 10 years. At Madley almost half of our staff are fully qualified Forest School Leaders. We are extremely lucky to have two sites which we can access with our children. The on-site Forest School is ideal when the weather is poor, or our minibus fleet is in use. The main site is in a native British woodland which is located approximately 3 miles away. Here we can allow the children to explore and work in a beautiful environment. With regular sessions being held for each class group the children are encouraged to take ownership of the woodland. They are expected to adhere to the environmental impact statement and are also encouraged to assist in maintaining the sustainability of the woodland by creating new pathways, cutting down brambles and ensuring that we leave our woodland area “better than we found it” 

What should the children wear at Forest School? 

It is important to make sure that the children are adequately dressed, the temperature falls about 5 degrees under the canopy so even on the hottest of days it does get chilly. 


  • Waterproof trousers and jackets are provided by the school 
  • Wellington boots – each child should have a pair in school  
  • Long trousers  
  • Long sleeved tops  
  • Fleece / hoody 
  • Long socks (not trainer socks) - to prevent rubbing and blisters 


In winter months we ask that the children wear additional clothing such as vests, hats, scarves and gloves.  In Summer months we ask that the children have a sun hat and sun cream – just in case.