Goudhurst & Kilndown Church of England Primary School

Forest School

What is Forest School?

Forest School is a unique educational experience and process that offers children the opportunity to succeed anddevelop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland environment.

The children  will engage in motivating and achievable tasks and activities throughout the year and in almost all weathers. Children will work with tools, play, learn boundaries of behaviour; both physical and social, grow in confidence, self-esteem and motivation whilst developing an understanding of the natural world.

The Forest School concept originated in Denmark, originally aimed at pre-school children, where it was found that children who had attended forest school then arrived at school with strong social and communication skills, having the ability to work in groups effectively, generally had high self-esteem and a confidence in their own abilities. These foundations helped them to raise their academic achievements.

In 2002 the first Forest School National conference was held, where the UK definition of Forest School was decided upon:

An inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve, develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a local woodland environment.

How we run our Forest School

Our Forest School is run on a rolling programme throughout the school year. Each pupil in the school receives 6 full day sessions over the course of the school year. Each year group receives their sessions at different times of year, so that all children, as they progress through the school, have access to regular Forest School, in a woodland setting, at different times of year. 

We aim to keep the children in the same groups throughout their time at Goudhurst and Kilndown. However, with new children joining the school who need to be allocated a group, as well as changes in classroom management (such as Intervention Groups) we may reorganise some groups to keep them balanced. All children will be informed prior to their sessions beginning, and each class teacher will have a current list available. The groups will not be altered from week to week.

All new parents will need to complete a medical information so forms will be sent home before your child begins their sessions. Please be sure to return their forms promptly to the office. We will not be expecting existing parents to complete a new form this year, but please complete a new one if your child's medical needs have changed. Thank you. Forms are available to download and print on your child's class page under letters.

Mrs Barstow (Bumblebee) is our Level 3 Forest School Practitioner, and she is supported by Mrs Mitchell (TA) plus a TA or Class Teacher from each class. For most groups we need a minimum of three adults for 15 children.


Forest School takes place in a private woodland - Ella's Wood, which is a short distance from school. The children are taken to the woods in the school minibus.

The sessions run from approximately 9.00am until 3.00pm; the minibus aiming to arrive back at school for the end of the school day.

Each session begins with the children sitting around the 'fire circle' calmly discussing any changes observed in the woodland from the previous session. We then talk about how we keep ourselves safe in the woods; this is a key part of each session as the children are encouraged to be very much aware of the hazards and risks and how they need to manage them to keep themselves and others safe. They then take responsibility for their own and others safety.

Then the children begin with activities. At times these may be generated by the adults, but more often the children (usually following discussions or observations from the previous week).

Adults in Forest School do not 'teach' the children, but remain in the background unless a child requests help (they have to ask an adult, as well as explain to the adult what it is they need to do). Mrs Barstow as Level 3 Practitioner will, however, instruct the children in lighting fires safely and using tools correctly and safely! 

When you teach a child something you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself

Jean Piaget

At the end of each session, the children are responsible for helping tidy up and gathering the equipment and carrying it up to the bus if it is not needed for the next session.

We are now several years into our Forest School journey, and have noted the impact on the children in the classroom. They are becoming more resilient, independent learners, better at problem solving, and are developing their language skills. They are also developing a greater awareness of risk and we spend time at the end of some sessions thinking about metacognition and how this can be transferred into other areas of their lives. This is done with all age groups, and we never cease to be amazed at the perception of even our very youngest children.

What your child will need for Forest School: 

The children will need to wear clothing appropriate to the weather, but will always need: 

  • Long sleeved top
  • Trousers (not jeans)
  • A long sleeved top/and other layers if weather is cold
  • Wellies
  • A complete spare set of clothes including underwear (+ plastic bag to keep them in, and to put wet clothing in when needed)
  • A waterproof coat  and waterproof trousers ('all-in-one' waterproofs are ideal for the younger children and are available for older children as well)
  • A water bottle containing water 
  • A piece of fruit for a snack

Waterproofs (if not being worn) and spare clothing need to be in a rucksack as the children are required to walk into the woods and need their hands free in case of trips and tumbles and to help carry equipment.

The sessions will take place regardless of weather unless specific risks are identified i.e. high winds, very low temperatures and flood. In this case we will attempt to run a session within the school grounds.