St Mary’s Pre-School in Horsham has become the first Early Years provider in the UK to be awarded national accreditation for the provision of Forest School.
The church owned pre-school began running Forest School sessions in February last year and has now been officially recognised by the Forest School Association.
Every week children from as young as three are given the opportunity to learn and play outdoors in a woodland environment without any of the usual toys,
tech and trappings of modern life.
Instead they are encouraged to explore nature, learn new skills and develop their own games and entertainment using the resources of the forest floor – no matter what the weather.
From camp fires and crafts to tree climbing and fungi finding, the sky is the limit for these young explorers.
Lisa Pearce, development officer for the Forest School Association, said: “The Forest School Association (FSA) congratulates St Mary’s Pre-School on becoming the first Early Years setting to be approved as a Recognised Forest School Provider.
“The assessment process concluded that the application and evidence submitted showed great experience and respect for the Forest School Principles, and indicated that the Forest School approach is embedded into the core routine of daily school life.
“The detailed session plans and case studies showing evaluation, reflection and next steps for participants were both well-presented and structured.
“The Forest School Handbook was extremely comprehensive and offers a ‘good practice’ example to other providers.
“Becoming a Recognised Forest School provider provides the school with the means of demonstrating the quality of their work to parents and those who fund their work.
“The FSA would encourage other providers to follow the example of St Mary’s Pre-School.”
Liz Miles, who is the fully qualified Forest School leader said: “We are very proud to have been awarded FSA Recognised Provider status as it helps to demonstrate that we are providing so much more than just outdoor play. Our practitioners are passionate about Forest School and it is a joy to watch the children thrive in a woodland environment where they can be creative, learn to manage risks and take ownership of their learning, all the while forming a closer connection with nature.”
The sessions are centred on the fire circle where the group will gather for a song at the beginning, snacks around the campfire and reflection time at the end of the session.
The children are otherwise free to explore their surroundings and although the forest school leader will sometimes give ideas for activities the focus is on child led learning with staff supporting children to reach the next stage of their development.
Children are taught woodcraft and other skills as they need them in order to make the things they choose to make or to achieve what they want to achieve.
At the beginning of his last session in the summer, one child arrived and said ‘I want to make a racing car’ and so he designed and made a racing car by sawing and drilling and using the resources he could find around him.