December 2015:The Word from the Woods 
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Dear webmaster,

Season's greetings one and all. The last bulletin of 2015 is pretty packed but at least it will give you something to read over Christmas if you need a distraction from the festivities. 

FSA update from the directors

It's been a very busy couple of months.  We have run the FSA 2015 conference jointly with Shropshire Forest School. It was a great success with 230 passionate practitioners from all over the UK and Canada!.  The main theme of the conference was play and, judging by the conversations had since both among groups and on social media, has proved to provoke much thought around our role in "wild play".  All the keynotes are available on the FSA website WIKI.

During the conference we had our AGM reviewing the last year and setting out the developments for the next year.  Please see the annual report and proceedings.  

We also had elections for 5 directors. Two have since stepped down, Mike Flinn and Seb Corall, we wish them all the best. Short precise of each director. Our new directors, Ely Dolan from Lincolnshire and Darren Lewis are busy getting their feet under the table.

Directors are there to both give a strategic steer and do as much as they can to contribute to the operations of the FSA.  All give up much voluntary time and energy to furthering the charitable aims of the organisation...promoting 'quality FS for all'.  We do operate on a small budget and our only paid employee works 2 days a week. The organisation has achieved much in the three years of its existence. Maintaining a profile for FS; acting as a signposting  organisation (we get many enquiries from the public, organisations and practitioners, each week); supporting practitioners through the establishment of local groups; developing resources on the website WIKI; developing a registered practitioners database; a FS newsfeed; providing the monthly members bulletin. With the limited resources we realise we can always do more and better improve our services. Membership involvement is key.  

We have had our first two board meetings since the October AGM and election and decided who will take on which roles for the next year and lead on various areas outlined in the latest development plan.  See minutes of board meetings.

The areas of work we are moving forward on are;
  • Trainers Quality Assurance Scheme. This was one of the key areas of work that lead to the FSA being established, trying to set a benchmark for all trainers. We have had two meetings since the conference to discuss  the trainers network feedback just before the conference and move the proposal on before involving a wider working group.  Chris Millet is chairing this process and we hope to have the system ready to pilot in the new year.
  • Communication and Marketing. Sara Collins has taken this area on and is drawing up a draft strategy.  This will help direct how we communicate with members, other stakeholders and the public in order to fulfil our charitable objects.  This is a key developing area and will review how mechanisms such as the website, wiki, monthly bulletin etc are all working as well as member and public engagement. We are also looking at how we can more effectively communicate the activities of the board.
  • Local groups development is key for supporting practitioners, as shown by our last membership survey. Louise Ambrose will continue to co-ordinate this area of work and has had a local group co-ordinators meeting recently.  Louise is trialing a new induction pack with affiliated groups in 2016.
  • Developing membership structure. We have had many people asking for organisational membership. We are looking at reviewing our membership model and what we may offer different types of members.  This will include trainers membership (integrating this with the QA scheme) and school membership. Helen Martin is leading on this area of work.
  • Elly Dolan and Lily Horseman will share the Conference portfolio, while Elly settles in as one of the new directors. We are currently looking at firming up a venue site and agreement with the South West FSA group for the next this space.
  • Membership Services will be a whole board affair working in conjunction our acting CEO, Gareth. We will continue with the monthly bulletin which Darren Lewis will co-ordinate. Other services we will be looking at will include the quality improvement framework for practitioners; getting members to write for the wiki and thus develop a resource for all practicing members.  We will continue with developing relationships with suppliers to offer discounts for members.  The website development will be a key area for this.
  • We will continue with representation at a national level and Jon Cree, as chair, will continue to take a lead on this.  
  • Geoff Mason will continue to coordinate the Research group.
  • Other roles decided at the November board meeting were as follows:
    • Deputy Chair, Lily Horseman.  This role is a supportive one to the chair, currently Jon Cree, and to substitute for Jon when he is not available.
    • Treasurer will be Rab Locke
    • We are still sorting out who take the secretary role
So a busy 2016 ahead.  We will be asking for volunteers!  

Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and sparkly solstice.

Jon Cree (on behalf of the board) 

Other FSA News
  1. URGENT.  The current hot debate is the DfE inquiry looking into the purpose and quality of education in England. They have issued a call for written evidence addressing the following points:
    .    What the purpose of education for children of all ages in England should be
    .    What measures should be used to evaluate the quality of education against this purpose
    .    How well the current education system performs against these measures
    To find out more about the inquiry visit here. Jon would be really interested in any responses to this from FSA members as he will be putting forward suggestions to the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom Sector partnerships as a concerted coordinated response from the outdoor learning sector.  Please send thoughts to the office at by January 4th.

    On the IOL webpage relating to the report it states that:
    The report’s recommendations are steering the Institute in working with a range of organisations interested in outdoor learning research and practice. If you think you are able to contribute to this work or are interested in discussing the findings and recommendations in this paper further please contact us. More information 
  2. A new function has been added to the website that allows members to express a view without having to type a comment or be identified. It is a simple thumbs up or down option for all comments, post and pages on the website. It is anonymous and only members are able to use it. Directors hope that it will encourage easy member engagement and offer a perspective about members' views. It has the potential to be used to gauge member views about specific questions in the future. 
  3. The new rules and guidelines for communication on the website have had a mixed reaction from a small number of members on the forum. We should be interested to know what you think about them. Please do make your views known here
  4. It is worth noting that individual directors can not answer for the whole board and so are unlikely to be able to answer complaints or questions in the forums where board level agreement would be required. Questions about controversial or sensitive issues would also be better handled privately and in a more ‘official’ way. Questions of this sort should be sent more formally to the relevant director or the board via the enquiries email address, the CEO, Chair or, where more appropriate, via an individual director for the attention of the whole board (through the website messaging system).

    It would be appreciated if formal communications to the board are written in a formal and clear way so that specific points can be considered and responded to.

    Main Office:


  5. A communications strategy is being developed. This will lead to communication policies that will include the roles and responsibilities of the board members and the members. The board will put these out for consultation once drafted. 
  6. Minutes from the November and December directors' meetings are now available on the website. We hope to get minutes approved and up on the website more quickly in future. We will also look for a professional minute take to help with this process and to free up director time. 
  7. Materials from the 2015 national conference have finally made it onto our WIKI. Directors apologies for the delay, which was caused by a couple of time sapping issues during November. Attendees may wish to share their photos from the weekend on the 'Photos, 2015 conference' page' (just use the Add media button). 
  8. The Green Man has published his second article, 'Festive Holly, reflect and spread the light'. He has also put up on the WIKI a couple of excellent pages about Holly and making a Christmas Wreath
  9. The directors will publish a prioritised work plan in the next couple of weeks (Christmas cheer allowing).

News, Resources and other networks
  • The new OFSTED Common Inspection Framework introduced in September 2015 gives FS many opportunities to shout about the benefits. FS chimes particularly with the personal development, behaviour and welfare section of the framework so shout about this to all schools – learn more
  • It is now tree planting time and we hope as many FS practitioners as possible took part in this years tree week at the start of December.  It doesn’t stop there you can be planting trees and shrubs throughout winter – so do visit the following sites to get advice, help and support – Tree Council  and the Woodland Trust trees for schools 
  • Birds at FS are hard to watch in the summer months – however in the winter months you can both see and hear them!  At the conference this year Matt Sewell held a really popular workshop on drawing the dawn chorus.  His ‘Spotting and Jotting Guide’  to our british birds is a highly acclaimed book and really useful one for helping both yourself and others spot and jot birds.
  • In January the annual RSPB Big Schools Birdwatch is an ideal opportunity for all FS groups to engage with this citizen science project.  You don’t need to be a school anyone can engage with the Big Garden birdwatch as well.  
  • Interested in creative curriculum based practises outdoors that you may be able to weave into your FS see these two annual gatherings in early 2016;
Cambridgeshire EE Service annual conference in Peterborough January 29th 
Hollowford annual outdoor festival in Derbyshire on February 27-28th 
  • The national Sustainable Schools Conference will be in Leicester on March 2016, climate change will be one the key themes.  FS is in a unique position to ‘experience’ climate change. Learn more
  • With the Paris Conference on Climate Change happening this month you can engage in this in a number of ways one of which is through the interclimate projects for young people  
  • On April 15th – 17th Earth Education UK are organising a gathering, “A Love Affair with the Earth”   If anyone who attended the earth ed interest session at the FSA conference or is interested in earth education, here is a chance to share in its delights at a gathering in Suffolk at Ringsfield Eco-Centre, Beccles. An event for teachers, environmental educators, forest school leaders, outdoor educators, bushcraft instructors, wilderness educators, social workers, mental health professionals, education consultants, curriculum designers, parents, home educators and earth educators.  To request a booking form and to book, contact: Jo Poole on Phone 01502 713020
  • Good from Woods Research Tool Kit. The Good from Woods research toolkit is designed to help you do rigorous research into whether your woodland activity has an impact on the health and wellbeing of participants. The toolkit takes you through the whole research process from planning to reporting but you can also use individual elements on their own. Learn more
  • Woodland learning blog created by students studying for Early Years Foundation Degree. This blog was created by students studying Early Years who have an interest in woodland learning. They blogged for a two week period, and gathered some interesting research and information about woodland learning and Forest Schools. Learn more 
  • Forest Education Network December Bulletin is now out 
  • Outdoor Learning Wales, formerly FEI Wales has produced it’s latest Christmas bulletin 
  • Outdoor Woodlands and Learning Scotland has also produced its winter bulletin 

A Christmas mistletoe thought from the chair’s (Jon Cree) home town – mistletoe capital of the world – Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire.

Just last weekend we celebrated the annual mistletoe festival with the usual smattering of druidic ritual and the mistletoe crowning of the town’s 2015 mistletoe king and queen.  It reminded me of the power of this time of year and how we are connected to the natural cycles, emboldening us all for the winter months.  The classic norse myth about Baldur and the norse gods tells a tale of fertility, tricks and daring. This led to the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe.  The story of Baldur's death is one of the most fascinating Norse myths for those interested in the "kissing" plant, because it is central to the history of mistletoe.

Baldur's mother was the Norse goddess, Frigga. When Baldur was born, Frigga made each and every plant, animal and inanimate object promise not to harm Baldur. But Frigga overlooked the mistletoe plant -- and the mischievous god of the Norse myths, Loki, took advantage of this oversight. Ever the prankster, Loki tricked one of the other gods into killing Baldur with a spear fashioned from mistletoe. Hermódr the Bold was appointed to ride to Hel in an attempt to bring Baldur back. Hel's condition for returning Baldur was that absolutely every last thing in the world, living and dead, had to weep for him. Failing that, he would remain with Hel. When this condition was put to the test, all wept except for a certain giantess, believed to be Loki in disguise.   Baldur's resurrection was thus thwarted.

Variations on the story about Baldur and the mistletoe have come down to us. For example, some relate it was agreed, after the death of Baldur, that thenceforth mistletoe would bring love rather than death into the world, and that any two people passing under mistletoe would exchange a kiss in memory of Baldur.

Others add that the tears Frigga shed over the slain Baldur became the mistletoe berries.

It goes without saying that, if we were to peel off the layers of custom and myth surrounding "kissing under the mistletoe" in an attempt to discover its true history, we would find ourselves in the midst of ancient erotica. Mistletoe has long been regarded as an aphrodisiac and fertility herb. It may also possess abortifacient qualities, which would help explain its association with uninhibited sexuality.  Or just maybe it has to do with the nights getting to be at their longest and so bringing mistletoe into the home was a signal for love and closeness in times of darkness and a foretaste of the joy to come over the festive season.

Some local groups news (further information on the local groups pages)
Please remember to keep your group's calendar page on the FSA website up to date 

FSA Norfolk Weaving a Web - Spring skill share event and new website launch! 05/03/2016 at 10:00 am
FSA Essex AGM for FSA Essex. 23/02/2016 at 5:00 pm. In addition, they are running numerous Paediatric & Outdoor First Aid courses in 2016
FSA Kent and Medway Winter Tree & Shrub ID CPD Event Saturday 30th January 2016 10am to 1pm
North of England Discussion Group Networking event, January 23, 2016 @ 11:00 – 14:30. WHERE: Bendrigg Trust, Nr Kendal Cumbria

No information about other local groups - please remember to keep your group's calendar list up to date on the FSA website so we can pick up and promote your events and activities. 

Latest pages on the WIKI
  • Photos, 2015 national conference
  • Make a Traditional Evergreen Winter Wreath
  • Holly – Ilex aquifolium
  • National conference 2015: Condover Hall, Shropshire
  • Christmas Themed Activities
  • The Green Man: Opinion Columnist for the FSA Website
Latest Forum topics
  • Ask the directors - what can we ask?
  • September board meeting minutes
  • The membership voice
  • Directors' resignations 

See all FSA member benefits
See the latest Forest School jobs
See the upcoming Forest School events

How to engage with the FSA
Planned FSA activity

The next FSA directors' meeting will be held 18th January. If any member would like something added to the agenda, and considered by directors, please email  

Best wishes,
Gareth Davies (CEO)
Copyright © 2015 Forest School Association, All rights reserved.
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