Forest School Information, Policies and Procedures Handbook
2. Contents page
3. Introduction to Forest Schools
4. Health and Safety
5. First Aid
6. Emergency Procedures
7. Daily Operating Procedures
8. Daily Operating Procedures continued
9. Parental Consent and Confidentiality
10. Toileting Policy
11. Clothing Policy
12. Tool Handling Policy
13. Fire Policy
14. Fire Policy continued
15. Food Eating Policy
16. Safety of Children
17. Equal Opportunities
18. Behaviour Policy
19. Weather Policy
20. Environmental Policy
21. Play Policy
22. Roles and Responsibilities
23. Roles and Responsibilities continued
24. Evaluating, Monitoring and Assessing
25. Relevant Legislation
Introduction to Forest Schools
Forest School is an innovative educational approach to outdoor play and learning. Its philosophy is to encourage and inspire individuals of any age through positive outdoor experiences. By participating in engaging, motivating and achievable tasks and activities in a woodland environment each participant has an opportunity to develop intrinsic motivation, sound emotional and social skills. These, through self-awareness can be developed to reach personal potential.
Forest Schools has demonstrated success with all children who visit the same woodland on a regular basis and through play, who have the opportunity to learn about the natural environment, how to handle risks and most importantly to use their own initiative to solve problems and co-operate with others. Forest School programmes run throughout the year. Children use full sized tools, play learn boundaries of behaviour; both physical and social, establish and grow in confidence, self-esteem and become self-motivated.
Forest Schools will aim to develop:
- Intrinsic motivation
- Good social communication skills
- A positive mental attitude, self-esteem and confidence
At Weston Point Primary the focus of Forest Schools is firstly, to develop children's collaborative working skills, self-esteem, confidence and practical skills, which can then be transferred to the classroom. Secondly, to make learning practical, fun and enjoyable so that children develop an enjoyable attitude towards school and learning.
We aim to teach children about caring for the environment in a variety of ways from creating habitats to using non-native species for craft activities. There is a woodland management plan in place, with objectives to minimise the impact of activities on the site. We aim to balance the benefits the woodland provides the children with care for the environment.
Health and Safety
At Weston Point Primary School, the health and safety of the children, staff and visitors is our primary concern. The following policies within this handbook are in addition to the main school policies and do not replace them. They are the minimum requirements for the safe running of Forest Schools.
Forest Schools is held on the school premises, within the woodland area, and is attended by children from the school. The forest school leader is responsible for the safe running of Forest Schools therefore, has a duty of care for the children. However all adults are required to take all reasonable steps to ensure children are safe. Before a session commences all staff involved in the sessions have access to activity plans and risk assessments associated with the activities.
Site Risk Assessment
Before a site is used, a risk assessment will be carried out by a Forest School Leader. The site risk assessment will be approved by Miss N Curphey (Headteacher) and updated as and when there are any permanent or seasonal changes to the site which are not recorded on the daily site assessment below.
Daily site risk assessment - A daily site risk assessment will be carried out before the site is used to ensure that there are no changes to the site which could cause harm. This should be taken with extra caution following high winds and other bad weather. It should be carried out by the forest school leader who will make the decision whether PPE should be worn when carrying out checks. Following the daily site risk assessment, the FS leader will carry out anything that is needed to make the site safe (e.g. remove any hazards, mark off any unsafe areas). At the same time will consider specific circumstances which make it appropriate to cancel a Forest School Session.
Activity risk assessment – When planning activities for Forest Schools, any hazards associated with that activity, that are at risk of causing harm, should be considered. These should be recorded on an activity risk assessment with suitable control measures taken to control and minimise the risk.
A first aid kit will be accessible in the Forest School area to all adults at all times. In addition to this a full emergency bag is on site and can be found in The Base camp area. Access to the emergency bag is permitted only to the Forest School Leader and other teaching assistants not to volunteers, visitors or children.
The Emergency Bag contains the following;
• First Aid Kit (see contents in column right)
• Burns Kit
• Fire blanket
• Tissues and paper towels in plastic bag
• Hand wash gel
• Baby wipes
• Fresh water in container
•Accident book/accident form
Full First Aid kit will contain;
Eye irrigation solution sachets
CPR face shield
Thermal emergency Blanket
The forest school leader will ensure this is
adequately stocked and replenished.
In addition to this a summary of medical information relating to each child and/or specific care plans are carried by the FS leader. Doors to the school are unlocked to ensure that full access is available to any medication required (e.g. inhalers, epi-pens). Staff will be advised of any specific medical information they should be aware of. The leader will also ensure a mobile phone is available in the area during each session.
In the event of an emergency the following will happen;
Situation assessed as able to treat casualty with First Aid
- Emergency Whistle will be blown to alert other adults in the Forest School.
- Remaining staff to secure safety of whole group from further danger. Stop all work/activities if safe. Call in and locate group promptly as agreed with group in advance.
- The Forest School Leader will assess the situation and remove any hazards. If the situation has been assessed as being able to treat casualty with first aid, the emergency first aid kit will be used to treat the casualty by a qualified first aider.
- If the child is able to carry on with the session, the forest school leader will monitor the child and inform their class teacher.
- Parents informed of accident and treatment at the end of the day and will be given an accident form.
- Forest School staff to complete school accident book and Forest School Incident Book, sign and date.
Situation assessed as unable to treat alone with First Aid.
- Emergency Whistle will be blown to alert other adults in the Forest School.
- Remaining staff to secure safety of whole group from further danger. Stop all work/activities if safe. Call in and locate group promptly as agreed with group in advance.
- The Forest School Leader will assess the situation, remove any hazards and treat the casualty where possible.
- Head teacher/Senior management to be informed of the incident.
- Appropriate emergency services to be informed.
- Parents/carers to be contacted and informed of accident and treatment.
Daily Operating Procedures
Before the session
- A session plan will be completed, taking into account observations, interest areas and learning points from the previous sessions. All adults will read the session plan prior to the session.
- Activity risk assessment forms will be completed/updated for each planned activity. All adults will read the forms relevant to a particular session before it starts.
- All staff will have read the latest Site Risk Assessment, which will be relevant to the current season.
- The Forest School Leader will check that enough adults are present for the session to go ahead and that the weather conditions allow it to take place.
- The Forest School site will be visited and the base camp area set up.
- A daily risk assessment will be completed.
- The equipment required for the session will be assembled, checked and prepared ready for taking to the site.
- All tools will be checked before use by the Forest School Leader following the tool policy procedure.
- Ensure fire safety equipment is present and prepared.
- Ensure first aid kit is present on site and all items are included.
- All children will be registered and checked that appropriate clothing is worn.
During the session
- Ensure regular head counts take place.
- Ensure all policies and procedures are being followed.
- Oversee tool use throughout the session.
- Support children in activities.
- Remind children of rules and safety procedures.
After the session
- Review and evaluate the lesson.
- Ensure fire is safely out and cool.
- Review any changes to risk assessments, policies and procedures.
- Replenish stock of first aid kit.
- Carry out maintenance of any tools or equipment used.
- Relay any incidents/accidents to appropriate adults.
Parental Consent and Confidentiality
Before children attend Forest School sessions, parental consent must be obtained for each child.
A parental consent for will be sent home to parents a number of weeks before sessions start. Parents will also be given a medical form to complete detailing any important medical information about their child.
In relation to forest schools, medical information for each child that is obtained from parents, will be kept in locked storage, in the schools main office with restricted access. The Forest School leader is given a summarised list of specific medical needs for individual children (e.g. Asthma, Epilepsy, allergies).
At the start of their child's Forest School block, parents/carers will be provided with information outlining the ethos of Forest School and proposed activities. They are required to sign a consent form to allow their child to participate in Forest Schools.
On the consent form as a cautionary measure parents are reminded to advise us if there are any further medical reasons or phobias that could affect their child's well-being and experience of Forest Schools. All information about individual children is private although specific medical information that could affect a child's well-being and safety at Forest Schools is shared with Forest School staff that have a need to know, to ensure the best care and safety for children in our care.
A summary of medical information and any medication required is kept in the Forest School Emergency bag at each session. Access to the emergency bag is permitted ONLY to the Forest School Leader and other teaching assistants NOT to volunteers, visitors or children. In between sessions this medical information is kept in locked storage. Emergency contact information is kept within the school office and can be obtained quickly as and when needed during sessions.
Children will be encouraged to use the toilet before beginning a session, firstly to avoid too many trips during the session and to avoid having to take off all the waterproofs.
Should a child need to go to the toilet during a session they will enter the building via the outside toilet doors. These doors will be opened by a member of staff at the beginning of the session and teachers will be made aware that the doors will be opened for that session.
If children are able, they will escort themselves to the toilet with an adult watching from the Forest School gate .If an adult needs to escort a child, the Forest School leader will be informed. If in the rare occasion a child should have a toileting accident on site, then the adult and child will advise the Forest School Leader who will advise adults and children that tool use will be stopped whilst an adult leaves the site due to the ratio of staff remaining. The adult and child can return to the session when they are ready and advise the FS leader so that a usual session resumes.
As a responsible person, the Forest School leader has the right to exclude any child they think is inappropriately dressed for Forest School activities. Children will be provided with waterproof overalls for each session to protect themselves and clothing from the elements. Available, is a limited selection of wellies, spare clothing, coats, socks and gloves should the children not have any. However for their own comfort children are encouraged to provide their own extra layers in winter. Some possible items the children could wear:
Vest or T-shirt
Long sleeved top
Hooded top / fleece or thick jumper
Thick socks (thermal or two pairs of thin ones)
Hat, gloves and scarf.
Long sleeved T-shirt or top
Light trousers (Arms and legs must be covered in the woodland)
Trainers, sturdy shoes or Wellington boots. (Sandals, crocs and flip-flops are not suitable.)
Participants are also responsible for providing and applying their own sunscreen themselves.
Tool Handling Policy
The safety of all participants is of paramount importance. Participants ensure that tools are used safely by adopting the following:
- Tools are stored correctly in school and checked after each session.
- Rules are set out clearly at the beginning of the tool use session.
- Leaders ensure that tool talks are given before any tools are used.
- Children are supervised at all times whilst using tools of any description.
- Inappropriate use of tools will not be tolerated and will result in immediate withdrawal from the task.
Specific tool policies are in place for each tool that may be used within Forest Schools; these can
be found in the appendices. The policies cover specific ratios for tool usage and any PPE required
for adults or children whilst using the tools. All tools are initially modelled by the Forest School
Leader to children and adults as set in the ratios determined by the tool policy. All Adults
participating must receive basic training on the safe use of tools before being allowed to use them
As tools are prepared for the beginning of a session, tool safety checks are completed by the
Forest School Leader. If any tools are deemed unsafe for purpose, these will be dealt with by the Forest School Leader.
Following a Forest School session tools are checked back in by the Forest School Leader or adults.
Tools are checked against the checking out list to ensure no tools are missing. The Forest School
Leader will be advised immediately if any tools/resources are missing. As tools are returned they
are cleaned and maintained following the specific tool policy.
At the beginning and throughout each session, children are reminded of the Forest School tool rules.
Fires will only be lit by a Forest School Leader following this safety policy when the children are
ready in every way; emotionally and physically.
Considerations before deciding to have a fire
- Wind direction.
- No combustible materials nearby/over hanging branches.
- Soil type – ensure not too peaty.
Safety –clothing and hair
- No hair/Jewellery dangling – hair tied back.
- No gloves on when placing materials.
- Sleeves rolled up.
- Seating should be positioned at least 1.5m away from fire.
- Allow gaps between seating arrangements for escape routes.
- Invite children into the inner circle.
- Ensure the area between the seating area and fire pit is free from debris and trip hazards.
- Children will be taught they must never the cross the inside ring and will be taught to move by stepping over the seating log and walking outside the seating area.
- Seating in line of smoke will be avoided. Children will be taught to turn their heads if smoke is coming in their direction.
- Fires will be lit by the forest school leader (not children) and only when the leader is confident the group is able to carry out instructions safely.
- Fires will be lit using a fire steel, matches and firelighters can be used but will be stored safely away in a fire proof box. No flammable liquids will be used to light or accelerate fires.
- Never leave the fire unattended.
- Have a bucket of water available in case of an emergency burn/scald and a fire blanket.
- Use gloves where appropriate and kneeling pads (always pick up pads and gloves off floor).
- The fire will be lit in a designated area used only for this purpose. The area will be cleared of dried leaves, wood and we or porous rocks which might explode if heated. A fire bowl/pit will be used to prevent the spread of fire on the school site.
- Flames no higher than 12 inches and the width of fire no bigger than 18 inches.
- A first aid kit must always be present including a burns kit.
- Spread out the embers of the fire.
- Pour on water gently using water from the outside in.
- Using the back of the hand, check for heat, and then apply further water if necessary.
- School Fire Action plan will be followed in emergency – see appendix.
Food and Eating Policy
Children at Forest Schools are taught a strict NO eating rule, unless it is a specific activity led by an adult to prepare and cook food. When children are ready they will have the opportunity to participate in simple cooking on the fire activities
Food Preparation, transport and storage
- Hands will be washed thoroughly and any cuts/grazes covered in the correct manner (blue
- plaster or ideally gloves) before handling and preparing food.
- Any food needing preparation will be prepared in the school kitchen.
- Food will be stored in clean containers and transported in a cool bag to and from the site, with any clean utensils and cooking pans required. The box will remain closed in between use with food covered in bags or boxes; to avoid attracting flies and other insects.
- Raw meats will be stored separately to any other foods.
- All 'use by' dates will be checked on foods before eating.
- Water for cooking will be provided in cleaned sealed storage.
Handling, cooking and eating food
- A fresh, clean, bucket of warm soapy water will be available for children to wash their hands before handling food or utensils.
- Children are taught how to cook food safely following the activity risk assessment and fire policy. All food will be checked by an adult to ensure it is fully cooked before eating.
- Children will be asked to sit still around the fire circle or to move to a designated eating area from the fire to keep numbers to a minimum near the fire circle.
Clearing away and cleaning up
- ALL food not eaten or cooked will be placed in black bin bags and disposed of in the school bin at the end of the session by one of the adults. The area is checked to ensure there are no food traces to avoid vermin being attracted to the area.
- ALL utensils and pans will be placed in the cool box and carried away after the session and cleaned in hot soapy water by one of the adults and stored away correctly.
Safety of Children
1-2-3- where are you?
Children are taught a game from the beginning of Forest Schools which is similar to hide and seek.
Children are asked to hide and then when they cannot be found on the call of '1-2-3 where are you' children have to make themselves been seen by an adult and praised for hiding so well. Throughout the sessions this can be played and also used as a call back to the base at the end of the sessions.
Boundaries are established with the children at the beginning of a session and children are taught the rule of asking an adult if they wish to go beyond the boundary. In Forest School sessions, boundaries begin as smaller areas, marked by ribbon, until trust can be developed between the adults and the children and boundaries widened. Children are involved in the risk management process of establishing boundaries and safe areas. This enables us to establish trust that children understand how to stay within the boundaries
At the beginning, during a session and at the end headcounts take place. The number of children and adults participating can be found at the top of the daily risk assessment where the ratio of adults to children has been calculated for the session. It is the responsibility of all adults participating to ensure they are aware of the headcount for the session and to be involved in the monitoring of this.
The role of staff/adults
The role of all adults during Forest School sessions is to ensure that children are well supervised and supported in their learning and development. Adults are expected to spread out in the Forest School area and be able to see children but not impose on children. They need to be clearly visible by wearing high visibility jackets so that children can locate an adult should they need to in an emergency.
The Forest School leader will have a mobile phone on them at all times in case of an emergency. Access into the school will be available at all times during sessions to allow staff and children to enter the building when necessary.
The purpose of Weston Point Primary School's safeguarding policy is to ensure every child who is a pupil at our school is safe and protected from harm. All staff, volunteers and visitors will be asked to read our Safeguarding Policy which will give clear directions about the expected behaviour and our legal responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of all children at our school. It is the responsibility of every member of staff, volunteer and regular visitor to our school to ensure that they carry out the requirements of this procedure and, at all times, work in a way that will safeguard and promote the welfare of all of the pupils at this school. Please see appendices for school's safeguarding policy. All disclosures will be reported to the head teacher.
At Weston Point we aim to actively promote the inclusion of all children and adults into Forest School sessions, and will endeavour to ensure that the opportunities for learning, development and participation are available to everyone, irrespective of race, gender, ability, religion, sexual orientation or age.
The school's Inclusion Policy will be followed during Forest School sessions. Please see appendices for our Inclusion Policy.
Principles of Equal Opportunity in Forest School:
- Discrimination is unacceptable
- Each child and teacher will endeavour to personally contribute towards a happy, caring environment by showing respect for each other and the environment
- Forest School is committed to emphasising the common elements and values of our multiple cultures rather than highlighting conflicting areas
- Contribute towards raising self-esteem of all
- Allow access for all children to all aspects of the curriculum
- Promote positive attitudes
Good behaviour is positively encouraged within Forest School, with much emphasis on self-discipline, courtesy and consideration for others. We recognise that children respond well to praise and therefore use it freely to promote good behaviour. We also do all that we can to prevent bullying, by reinforcing the school ethos in which bullying is regarded as unacceptable.
We aim to:
- Build self esteem, independence, motivation and learning in a safe environment
- Reinforce collaborative behaviour
- Promote awareness, respect and care for others
- Have a consistent approach to expectations both inside and outside of school
- Develop an awareness of acceptable behaviour in an outdoor environment
- Develop both children's and adults pride in their achievements
To do this, the Forest School Leader will:
- Create a positive environment to encourage caring, nurturing and acceptable behaviour to all i.e. one another, the environment and the equipment we will be using.
- Be mindful of the need to maintain safety at all times
- Establish clearly defined standards of expected behaviour
- Place the needs of the children, including their preferred learning styles, behavioural needs and school curriculum to maximise individual success and raise self esteem
- Provide a positive role model for children and volunteers
- Promote effective relationships in which all are accepted, valued and treaded equally.
The children will:
- Listen carefully to instructions and requests especially concerning safety
- Develop an acceptable attitude towards the environment and one another
Rewards and sanctions will be followed in accordance with school's behaviour policy. Please see appendices for school's Behaviour and Anti-bullying policy.
Exposure to the elements is an integral part of the Forest School ethos. Therefore Forest School sessions will go ahead in all weather conditions with only a few exceptions:
• Strong winds that make woodland areas hazardous for use due to falling debris.
• When it is dangerous to get to the woods by foot due to snow, flooding or ice etc.
• Very wet cold conditions where hypothermia is a real possibility.
In inclement and or cold weather we will erect temporary shelters to enable us to take shelter. These shelters will consist of large and small tarpaulins and suitable rope for securing are part of our general Forest School equipment.
These can be erected quickly and easily in a manner suitable to the layout and orientation of the Forest School site being used. In the summer the trees in the forest will provide good sun cover. We will also erect shelters from tarpaulins if required.
Wherever possible, environmentally friendly products and recycled materials will be used. We aim to promote environmental awareness and care for our environment. Conservation issues and sustainability will also be supported.
The woodland will be maintained to ensure the survival of all native flora and fauna and new flora will be introduced if needed. We will remove all litter and debris we take into the woodland and have regular litter picks to remove other refuse which is in the area. We will be caring towards our neighbours and try to minimise the amount of smoke and noise produced.
Brambles and nettles will be removed from the main pathways but will be allowed to grow in other areas of the woodland. Dead and fallen branches will be removed, cut down and stored in the log store and used as fire wood.
During the winter months large stones and logs will be left alone to avoid disturbing hibernating creatures. There will be areas created where wood is allowed to rot to encourage insects to thrive, wild flowers will be allowed to grow and children encouraged to enjoy them growing rather than pick them.
The Forest School recognises the importance of play, both indoors and outdoors, and the value of risk taking. Practitioners will support children's play throughout sessions taking into account the age, interests and individual needs of the child. We provide provision in which children can play in a safe and secure environment and adjust schedule of play activities throughout the session to meet individual needs of the children.
Children have opportunities to experience much of their learning through free play. Self-initiated play helps children to understand and learn about themselves and their surroundings.
Forest school sessions aim to provide children with the opportunity to play and explore rich, diverse and natural environments. Sessions will be structured to allow time for free play, exploration and social interaction.
Roles and Responsibilities
The Forest School Leader
- To plan and lead all Forest School activities.
- To ensure that planned activities and resources available are within the capabilities of the children taking part, amending plans to provide an inclusive curriculum enabling the children to achieve.
- To take responsibility for discipline during Forest School sessions (see Behaviour Policy)
- To have an up to date First Aid qualification.
- To ensure that medication (e.g. epi pens/inhalers) and appropriate First Aid is available at every session.
- To ensure that all participants are adequately dressed for the weather.
- To ensure that adults participating understand their role in promoting emotional intelligence, self-esteem and learning at Forest Schools.
- To carry out daily risk assessments as described in the Risk Assessment Policy.
- To ensure all Forest School policies are regularly reviewed and that review is informed by observations and developing knowledge of the Forest School setting.
All adults working within the Forest School
- Ensure before taking part you have read the Forest School Handbook and signed the policies and procedures in place.
- Before the session takes place, take time to read the plans for that session and refer to any related risk assessments associated with the activity.
- Alert the Forest School Leader immediately if anyone (adult or child) requires first aid, or has an accident – no matter how minor.
- ONLY use tools if the Forest School Leader has said it is okay to do so. Follow the appropriate tool policy and lead by example when handling and using tools. Report any concerns about the state of equipment immediately.
- Lead by example and follow the Forest School Rules and reinforce them to children throughout the session.
- Be aware of the location of the First Aid kit.
- Only tend the fire to extinguish in an emergency, or if agreed beforehand with the Forest school Leader and you feel comfortable doing so.
- Stay within the boundaries and let the FS leader know if you need to leave the activity or area you are supervising.
- Be aware you are duty bound under the Health and Safety at Work Act to work safely, take responsibility for your own safety and the implications of your actions, and report or remove hazards as they occur.
Ensure you wear appropriate waterproof clothing and footwear, including a high visibility jacket which are provided to ensure adults can be easily identified.
- At the end of sessions ensure you all support the FS leader with tidying away resources.
- To take personal responsibility for their own safety as well as the safety of others.
- To listen to and follow safety information given to them.
- To bring appropriate clothing and footwear to Forest School sessions.
Evaluating, Monitoring and Assessing
In order to develop the Forest School program and to ensure good practice is maintained, evaluation of activities will be undertaken.
During a session;
Across all Reception, KS1 and KS2 classes evidence is gathered using the following criteria; self-esteem/confidence, behaviour, relationships, independence/self-care, communication/language, exploration/curiosity, creativity/imagination, physical/practical skills, participation, taking appropriate risks and other general observations.
At all Forest School sessions, observations on children are discussed during or after a session and recorded. At least one member of staff from the class is involved in the session, this enables the
Forest School Leader to gain insight into changes between usual classroom behaviour and that of Forest Schools. The class TA can then also feedback how their Forest Schools experience has enhanced their learning and development within the classroom.
The evidence collected, in the form of notes and photographs, of children's learning is collated primarily to plan for future sessions and to develop the children's progression in different areas.
Periodically the children's Forest School learning journeys will be updated. All adults supporting the sessions will be given an observation sheets containing the names of each child in the group to note comments and observations made of each child.
Following each session;
The Forest School leader will write a reflection/evaluation of the session and plan accordingly for the next session based on the children's interests and learning in order to develop their skills and learning further.
The policies and procedures in this handbook will be reviewed in July 2019 by El Wilkes (Forest School Leader) and Noreen Curphey (Head teacher).
- The Health and Safety at Work, etcAct 1974
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
- The Education (School Premises) Regulations 1999
- The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
- The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
- The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2006
- The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
- The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
- The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995
- The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002
- The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
- The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007
- Disability Discrimination Act 1995
- The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981