April 2015 e-bulletin from the FSA 
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April 2015: The Word from the Woods - feel free to forward this on
Dear Member,
I hope that everyone had a good Easter and is enjoying the sunshine this week. I would like to talk to you about the Qualified Forest School practitioner database. Our administrators say that they have frequent enquiries from people who have used this database. Freelance members are picking up work through being listed. However, the FSA needs ALL qualified members to be listed. You may not think that it would benefit you immediately if you are already employed in a school, nursery etc but it will. The more people who get listed the easier it is for the FSA to argue to employers that all Forest School practitioners SHOULD be qualified. My own daughter's nursery decided not to have someone go through the costly, lengthy and difficult process of gaining a level 3 qualification in Forest School because 'we can do Forest School without needing to be qualified'. The fact is FS level 3 training IS lengthy and difficult. Not only is being qualified one of the 6 principles of Forest School but gaining your qualification should be recognised as an achievement. Once we have verified your FS qualification, the FSA can provide you with a badge that helps differentiate you, and your employer (while you work for them), from those people who do not have a Forest School qualification.  
Gareth Davies (CEO)
Please click through links below


FSA News: What's new in the FSA
Monthly Director's Update: Robert Locke (FSA Company Secretary) 
Perspectives: Level 3 qualified. Now what? 
Events: There are currently 3 events listed on the FSA website
Jobs: There are 5 current job adverts listed on the FSA website
National Conference Update: This years conference
Other NewsNational and Regional news


FSA Planned Activity: What we are planning to do next
Local Groups
Funding Opportunities
Member Benefits: Highlighting member benefits and how to access them
How to engage with the FSA

Bulletin Content

FSA News

  • The Word from the Woods has been chosen as the name for the monthly e-bulletins from the FSA. Thank you to those who took the time to vote. 
  • We are delighted to announce that FSA Hampshire are now a formally affiliated local group of the FSA. You can find their details through this link
  • Letter challenging requirement for increased level of insurance cover - this follows on from last month where this issue was mentioned. We are pleased to be able to offer affected members this support.
  • Speaking of letters supporting Forest School. There has been much discussion in social media, of late, about perceived differences in provision of Forest School. The FSA has produced a standard letter to assist members in communicating what Forest School is. It reflects the position of the FSA and seeks to encourage people to engage with both Forest School and the FSA if they are not already doing so. If we want people to deliver Forest School then they must understand both what it is and what it isn't. If we want them to be appropriately qualified then we need wide adoption of the verified qualified Forest School practitioner scheme, as Gareth talks about in the introduction. 
  • CERTA is 5th UK Awarding Body to gain FSA support: CERTA becomes the latest Awarding Body to apply for and gain FSA support by adopting the additional requirements, endorsed by the FSA, for Centres and Trainers wishing to deliver Forest School courses in the UK. Five of the nine Awarding Bodies that are offering awards in Forest School qualifications, listed on the QCF, are now supported by the FSA. These are OCNWMR, AptEd, AIM Awards, NOCN and now CERTA. We have had useful talks with the remaining four and anticipate others making the necessary changes to their qualification specifications in the next few months.
    More information providing context for this news: UK Awarding Bodies offering Forest School qualifications (news item December 2014)
    The FSA endorsed minimum requirements for Forest School Trainers entering the sector are fast becoming the industry standard. This does not imply FSA endorsement of the trainers but it does raise the bar a little higher for initial entry and should contribute to our purpose of encouraging quality Forest School for all.
  • We still need a volunteer coordinator to handle reviews – of books, equipment etc. The FSA reviews products for its members' interest. We are looking for someone to help coordinate getting the right items to the right people at the right time for review in the e-bulletin and website. Please contact gareth@forestschoolassociation.org if you are interested. 
  • The FSA has negotiated a 10% discount on all Greenman Bushcraft or Forest School Shop products for members (see member benefits below).  It would be good to know if these discounts are valued by members. Please let us know.. forum, email, Facebook etc. 
  • Are any members interested in trialing a new Shave horse prototype. Liz Knowles is looking for someone, with experience of using shave horses, to trial it with different people (particularly smaller children). If you are interested please contact Liz@muddyfaces.co.uk (There will be a voucher to spend on new FS Kit to say thank you for giving feedback on how it went).   
    The shave horse is made from strong timber designed for heavy/ group use.  It has different settings to  allow for a variety of leg length suitable for small children up to adults adult. This is achieved by adjusting the seat forward and back ward and adding a foot plate for shorter legs. Additionally a strong rubber strap is applied to help hold the piece in place for small children who do not have the length and coordination to use the draw knife whilst pressing the foot plate.
  • Latest forum topics (members must be logged into the website)

Monthly Director's Update

I have been working in the voluntary sector for the last 11 years in various roles – most recently I have been the CEO of an infrastructure support organisation that works alongside children’s and young-people’s community groups. I have been a Director with the FSA since the end of 2014 having discovered Forest School a few years ago through my wife who works in primary education. 

As a charity CEO I place great importance on organisational governance – please don’t fall asleep at this point!! – as it is the key way that professional standards can be maintained in any organisation. Professional standards are of interest to all of us involved with Forest School as this is how we can ensure that all those we work with and alongside can be assured of the highest possible quality of experience. Having expressed an interest in this area I now also find myself as the FSA Company Secretary – a role that places a lead responsibility to ensure the ‘proper’ running of FSA as it becomes established as a leading national, perhaps international Forest School voice.

Since joining the FSA as a Director I have seen at first hand the passion and commitment of the other Directors and staff to developing our support to members and the wider sector. I have also witnessed a commitment to ensuring that the FSA is being built on firm foundations, foundations that will serve the membership and thesector well into the future. This is, of course, an ongoing process and is being delivered on a largely voluntary basis. It’s really good to be part of something so professional but also ‘organic’ at the same time – ‘organic’ being very appropriate for an organisation like the FSA!

Robert Locke (FSA Company Secretary) 

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Alex Levitt from Diggers Forest School writes ...

So, you love being outdoors, adore woodland, are enthusiastic about nature, and like working with children. How do you make the most of that? Easy answer: train to be a Level 3 Forest School Practitioner. Right, now you are trained and qualified, having enjoyed memorable moments sat around a campfire (thank you Liz and Renzo) along the way. Now what? Good question! 

I’m new to Forest School and I love it. After 20 years in the construction industry, working with honest, reliable, conscientious children is easy! I ended up discovering FS by accident, after my wife suffered a stroke, and I decided to keep her business, Diggers Forest School, going for her to return to. Best decision I ever made!

Anyway, we are opening a Forest School Nursery soon. It’s a huge step, and there are lots of pressures, mostly self-imposed. It will be open for 51 weeks of the year from 8:00 until 5:30. As I am sure you are all aware there is so much to do in setting up a business of this nature: premises, woodland, policies, insurance, website, marketing, finance and personnel amongst others.

We have so far received, without advertising, enquiries from 11 Forest School Practitioners people asking for employment, and this got me thinking….”what do you lot do, once you have trained and qualified?”

Most I have spoke to run the odd session here and there, normally at the local primary school; this seems a bit of a waste to me. I’ve had people telling me of the “personal journey” that they have been on during the course of their training, and that is great. But, has the journey ended?

In my old industry, the Government started promoting an initiative called “Green Deal” a couple of years ago; it’s all to do with reducing carbon emissions. People trained, started businesses, set up websites, advertised, and despite what the Government claims it has all fallen flat.

Will the same thing happen to Forest School? Is it just a passing fashion or trend? What are the opportunities for those of us who have a passion for this wonderful and inspirational process? How can we turn the potential of Forest School into a successful business opportunity in the same way that all the training companies have done so well? Or, are you all happy with one hour a week at the local primary school?

That’s enough questions for now. Answers on a postcard please or preferably direct to the FSA website. Thank you. Alex Levitt, Forest School Fanatic.

Discuss this article on the forum 

0725 251980, 01730 826711, alex@diggersforestschool.com, www.diggersforestschool.com

Each month a member will have an opportunity to raise a Forest School topic or issue that interests them and that may be thought provoking for the wider community. If you would like to write something in fewer than 300 words, ready for next month, please email gareth@forestschoolassociation.org so that we can discuss it. It can be anything related to Forest School practice, business or even politics so long as it is tolerably well written, fair and reasonable (or maybe unreasonable, in which case it should be funny). 

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National Conference Update

The flier and programme will be going out in the next week – we are privileged to have as the main keynote speaker Bob Hughes.  Bob runs Play Education and has been a playworker since 1970. He has lectured all over the world and currently works as a playwork writer, trainer and researcher. He was the first managing editor of the International Play Journal and was awarded a prize winning MA in Playwork Development Studies in 2001, he has written many papers and books on play and the role of the playworker and will lay down some thoughts and challenges for FS practise.  This weekend promises to live up to our first two conferences – full of challenging and stimulating debate and practise.

Call for Workshop Leaders:
We are still looking for inspiring workshop leaders to deliver 2 hour workshop sessions at the FSA National Conference this Autumn. The conference runs from Friday 23 Oct until Sunday 25 Oct, near Shrewsbury in Shropshire. We are looking for a variety of workshops that span the breadth of interests held by Forest School practitioners. The conference is hoping to look at the broad themes of 'thinking', creativity and resilience.

Workshop leaders are given a free place (including accommodation and all meals) for the whole conference. If you are interested in running a workshop, please e-mail your proposed focus (short blurb about the workshop) to Alice Savery (alice.savery@shropshire.gov.uk) with a short biography.

The 2015 national conference will be held over the weekend of  23rd to 25th October at Condover Hall just outside Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY5 7AU. Please put the date in your diaries. More information to follow. 

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Other News

  • UK's first Holistic education Conference on September 12th/13th in Leeds. The HEO are now calling for papers.  More details 
  • Election issues:
As part of their Raising the Heartbeat of the Nation - a five step plan for a more active nation campaign the Sport & Recreation Alliance is calling for the Prime Minister to appoint a 'Minister for the Outdoors'.  Part of this is about accessing the natural environment so fits with the FS movement – something to push for coming up to the election.
Act for Nature: The campaign for a Nature and Wellbeing Act
We need nature - so let's put it back in our lives, where it belongs. 
We're losing our wildlife. 60% of our species are in decline as is our own health and wellbeing. The two things are linked - and small policy changes won’t be enough to halt the loss and start the wildlife recovery. If you are interested in this joint Wildlife trust and RSPB campaign leading up to the election do join in calling for a Nature and Wellbeing Act – to put nature at the heart of how our country is run, so everyone can enjoy the benefits it provides in our everyday lives. This is a ‘Big Ask’ – but if we don’t start asking, we won’t get the change that nature and people need. The Outdoor Kids Sun Safety Code will… 
* Help you understand why sun protection is important – even in the UK. 
* Enable you to develop an effective sun protection policy, tailored for your sport/activity and resources. 
* Provide ideas to help you implement sun protection throughout the summer. 
* Offer resources to help you communicate and raise awareness to others. 
* Provide accreditation, showing that you are doing the best you can to protect the kids in your care. Recent updates and activity 
* About Project Wild Thing 
* Two thirds of parents have outdoor play concerns
  • It is empty classroom day on June 19th so make sure you are doing FS on that day see more 
  •  Natural Connections has launched a new collaborative blog and there are settings that have featured FS in their provision – it is now live at naturalconnectionsblog.wordpress.com. Follow the blog to find out what it’s all about, and contact jenny.hanwell@naturalengland.org.uk for information about how to get involved.
  • The Natural Connections Festival of Learning in the Natural Environment will take place from Fri 26th June – Friday 3rd July 2015. Natural Connections are offering to help you promote your outdoor learning activities during this week long festival of LINE across the South West. The Festival of LINE starts with a conference on 26th June at Ashton Court near Bristol and closes with a Health & Learning Conference at the University of East London on Fri 3rd July]. Please contact Ian Blackwell if you have any questions or have events you want to feature on the Festival Calendar ian.blackwell@plymouth.ac.uk
  • On April 24th the  new version of the online woodland management tool MyForest designed for educators and FS leaders is launched by Sylva see here

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FSA Planned Activity

  • The Forest School Quality Improvement Framework (QUIF) was developed by the Forestry Commission a few years ago. As the role of the Forestry Commission (FC) changes in Scotland and Wales, with regards supporting woodland learning, the FC has agreed that the FSA will be taking on the QUIF and developing it further to meet a number of practitioner quality review needs. A working party is being  put together to complete the work, which should be competed this year. 
  • Development of a Forest School Trainers endorsement scheme. This is a significant area of work and key to our strategy of improving and standardising the quality of Forest School. A working group comprising invited FSA Directors, Members of the GB Trainers Network and other key people in the sector will be meeting in Birmingham on 2nd March to discuss how this should move forward (listed below). 
  • An approved CPD provider scheme is also being looked at as we receive frequent requests for recommendations in this area. 
  • Building a Wiki or knowledge base into the website so that members can easily contribute, share, and find useful Forest School related information. 
  • Planning of the 2015 national Forest school conference.
  • Further guidance notes informed by members needs and wishes. Please let us know which guidance notes you think the FSA should produce next - and why - on the forum
  • Production of case studies
  • Support and establishment of Local Groups - see below 
  • The FSA directors have met monthly since the elections held in November last year. Responsibilities and areas of work agreed so far are as follows:
    • Jon Cree - (Chair), Conference 
    • Aline Hill - (Deputy Chair), Case Studies & Editing guidance notes, strategy on members benefits, newsletters
    • Robert Locke - (Company Secretary) 
    • (Treasurer) - investigating co-opting someone for this important role
    • Sara Collins - Social Media & engaging members
    • Louise Ambrose - Local Groups, guidance notes, conference
    • Helen Martin - guidance on Ofsted and Forest School
    • Lily Horseman - guidance notes
    • Geoff Mason - Research
    • Adrian Goodhand - Social media
    • Chris Millett - Trainers Endorsement Scheme, 
  • Some working groups that are operating at present:
    • Conference - Jon Cree and Louise Ambrose
    • Membership Engagement - Aline Hill, Sara Collins, Gareth Davies
    • Website content/Wiki development/guidance notes - Lily Horseman, Aline Hill, Sara Collins, Gareth Davies
    • Forest School Trainer Endorsement - Chris Millett, Lily Horseman, Gareth Davies, Sarah Lawfull, Richard Irvine, Mike Brady, Samantha Harman
    • Research - Geoff Mason, Jane Acton, Vicky Eyles, Geoffrey Guy, Frances Harris, Sara Knight, Mark Leather, Mel McCree, Vicki Stewart, Sue Waite, Phil Waters

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Local Groups

The map above shows the distributions of local Forest School groups that have either formally affiliated with the FSA (tents) or have expressed some interest in doing so (converging arrows). The brown icons with white arrows are county representatives in the South West group, which is is more of a regional group. Support for member networking opportunities at a local level is an important part of the FSA's strategy for adding value. As an FSA member you are welcome to join any local group. If there isn't one in your area yet you may consider being involved with setting one up

Each affiliated local group is a separate organisation. Some have their own websites, FaceBook groups, newsletters and mailing lists but the FSA handles membership and provides a web presence and free promotion and publicity of activities. However, all share a core belief in the Forest School ethos that is promoted by the national FSA and a desire to see quality Forest School. All members of the groups are also FSA members but each group runs events in their area that anyone is welcome to attend. 

It is still early days but the local groups have run various events such as skillshare days, discounted CPD opportunities, and FSA Essex even ran the national FS conference on behalf of the FSA last year. The local groups have the opportunity to share ideas and opportunities between themselves and with national FSA.

The FSA is an open and inclusive membership led organisation. We see the local groups as an expression of this. Our mutual support will continue to develop over the years. 

In future editions of the bulletin I would love to be able to promote key events and news from local groups. Local group reps please email gareth@forestschoolassocaition.org. 

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Funding Opportunities

Education Endowment Fund Grant

This new grant from the education endowment fund (a DofE fund) is applicable to many Forest Schools looking at building resilience and 'character'.

This could be quite a large undertaking but well worth looking at - the deadline is April 1st
More information  

Trees for Schools Fund 2015 is now Open

Grants for schools from the Tree Council under the Trees for Schools fund 2015 is now Open. This grant is open to all schools within the United Kingdom with pupils aged 16 or under.

For ideas to inspire children to plant trees in their schools and celebrate this experience creatively as part of their curriculum, see the Tree Council's Tree Ties CD  see here for details.

If you know of any funding opportunities that may help other members please contribute to the 'Forest School Funding Opportunities' area of the forum.  

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Member Benefits

As a member you have access to a number of member only services and benefits. These will be developed and built on as the organisation grows. We want to be responsive to our members' needs so if you have a particular service that you would like to see introduced do please let us know by contacting gareth@forestschoolassociation.org.


Members can access all the discount codes on the website here (must login first)
  • 10% discount on all all products from either Greenman Bushcraft or Forest School Shop 
  • 5% discount on Muddy Faces products 
  • 10% discount on Wild Canvas products
  • 40% discount on Mum2Mum rainwear 
  • 43% discount on Rukka rainwear 
  • Up to £40 off conference fees 
  • Discounts on events run by FSA affiliated local groups and other FSA supported events ... publicised as they come
  • Cheaper insurance rate for practitioners and trainers. The FSA has negotiated a discounted insurance rate for practitioners and trainers with Birnbeck Insurance Services. The insurance package for members will be £159 for individual practitioners. For organisations this will depend on the type of organisation. Birnbeck can be contacted by email office@birnbeck.com or tel 01934 522 252. Birnbeck cross-checks insurance applications with our membership database.
  • Discounted advertising of Forest School jobs on our publicly accessible jobs board. As a member you get a 50% discount when advertising Forest School jobs. Please use coupon code (you are welcome to use this code on behalf of an organisation that you work for but you must not share this code).
  • Discounted advertising of Forest School events on our events board. As a member you get an 83% discount when advertising an event on our events board. Please use coupon code (you are welcome to use this code on behalf of an organisation that you work for but you must not share this code).
2. Access to the FSA social network
You can communicate with members all over the UK and join special interest groups or share experiences / coordinate events with other members in your area. Please see the introductory video on how to use the social network.

3. Local groups
In addition to joining local groups in the social network, as an FSA member you are automatically eligible to join your local affiliated FSA group. These will offer opportunity for local networking and sharing of best practice. It is expected that the number of local groups will grow rapidly now that the FSA has drafted clear guidance notes on how to set up an affiliated FSA group.

4. Member only news
Keep abreast of what is happening in the world of Forest School by accessing the member only news section. Members with news stories are welcome to submit them to enquiries@forestschoolassociation.org (they must involve an actual news story and NOT simply be orientated towards self promotion or publicity of an individual or company. News of upcoming events being run by groups or other networks is fine.

5. Reviews
See what our editors have to say about new Forest School products and services (from books to equipment). Have your say by leaving a comment. If enough people comment members will get to learn about the issues, what's good, what's bad and everything in between.

6. Case studies and articles
We know that Forest School works but it is important to have the evidence to inform researchers and decision makers. The FSA hopes to gather and collate practitioner case studies that will form an evidence base. Any member will be able to access it and hopefully get some new ideas or at least a different perspective but if you would like to contribute your own case study please read these guidance notes. Similarly, articles will be collated and made available. These can be searched for under the downloads section of the resource library using key words.

7. Bulletins
The FSA will email you 10-12 bulletins each year. Please make sure that you keep your email address up to date.

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How to Engage with the FSA

  1. For general inquiries including membership and events:
    Alice Skinner (FSA Administrator) 
    Telephone: 01228564407
    Email: enquiries@forestschoolassociation.org
  2. To contact one or more FSA directors please email the enquiries address above and mark for the attention of the relevant people ... if you are not sure who that is Alice will forward the email to the person who seems most appropriate.
  3. For non routine enquiries or issues please contact the FSA Chief Executive:
    Gareth Wyn Davies
    Email: gareth@forestschoolassociation.org
  4. Members can share ideas and raise issues within the FSA website forum (members must login first). There is a specific area for asking the FSA directors questions. 
  5. All members have access to the social network within the FSA website. You can make connections with friends and join local groups. In this way you will be able to find out about and get involved with activities happening in your area. 
  6. Members can select to receive automatic email notifications when there are new posts on the website or when someone responds to your comments. 
  7. There are a growing number of emerging and formally affiliated local FSA groups. Please check the local groups map to find one near your. As this is all quite new please consider being involved with setting up a local group. 
  8. Your local group has a representative for day to day contact with the FSA directors and to share ideas / knowledge with other groups. You can ask for your thoughts to be passed to the FSA directors through your local representative. 
  9. Get yourself on the FSA members map and have your FS qualification verified by the FSA.
  • Total FSA membership is hovering just above the 1000 mark. The members map above only shows the 250 members who have submitted the necessary eForm to be listed on the members map
  • The map above shows the 90 members who have had their Forest School qualifications verified by the FSA and who now appear on a national database of qualified FS practitioners, searchable by the public. They are entitled to use the following badge and can link to their profile on the FSA website.

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