DCC Forest Schools Advice – Training and Health and Safety Requirements

Derbyshire Forest School Health and Safety Guidance and Requirements

From April 2013

In line with new National Health and Safety guidelines Derbyshire County Council advise the following


The National Forest School Association (FSA) have set out six principles and criteria for good practice at Forest School1. Derbyshire County Council support these principles and criteria and, in relation to Health and Safety requirements and training recommendations, adopt these principles for good practice and advise the following for Forest School in Derbyshire (taken from the Forest School Association website www.forestschoolassociation.org):   


Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.


  • Forest School opportunities are designed to build on an individual’s innate motivation, positive attitudes and/or interests.


  • Forest School uses tools and fires only where deemed appropriate to the learners, and dependent on completion of a baseline risk assessment.


  • Any Forest School experience follows a Risk–Benefit process managed jointly by the practitioner and learner that is tailored to the developmental stage of the learner.


Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.


  • Forest School is led by qualified Forest School practitioners, who are required to hold a minimum of an accredited Level 3 Forest School qualification.


  • There is a high ratio of practitioner/adults to learners.


  • Practitioners and adults regularly helping at Forest School are subject to relevant checks into their suitability to have prolonged contact with children, young people and vulnerable people.


  • Practitioners need to hold an up-to-date first aid qualification, which includes paediatric (if appropriate) and outdoor elements.


  • Forest School is backed by relevant working documents, which contain all the policies and procedures required for running Forest School and which establish the roles and responsibilities of staff and volunteers.


  • The Forest School leader is a reflective practitioner and sees themselves, therefore, as a learner too.




1 The Forest School Association principles and criteria for good practice can be found in full at:  http://www.forestschoolassociation.org/full-principles-and-criteria-for-good-practice/





Training Guidance for Forest School


There are 2 main routes to establishing a Forest School programme for your group:


  1. Employ (or contract in the services) of an existing Level 3 Forest School practitioner. 


  1. Train one of your existing staff to become a Level 3 Forest School practitioner


There are a number of awarding bodies that trainers work through to provide Forest School training and three main levels of qualification:


Level 1: is an introduction to Forest School and as such does not equip you to run Forest School. It gives you an idea of the principles and practice but does not equip you to lead a group. People who attend this are generally volunteer helpers, managers who don’t want to practise but need to know what the principles and elements of practise entail, and people who wish to dip their toes in before committing to becoming recognised leaders. As such, it is a short course. (The OCN course is 30 hours and worth 3 credits.)


Level 2:  is designed to qualify a learner to become a Forest School assistant, enabling them to take a proactive role in helping a Forest School practitioner plan and deliver a Forest School programme and supporting the learners. This course is generally approximately 60 hours and worth 6 credits.


Level 3:  is designed to qualify the trainee to become a Forest School practitioner, able to set up and run a Forest School programme. Level 3 covers how to facilitate groups in a learner-centred way, and how to manage a Forest School site sustainably. It also covers the practical skills required of a Forest School practitioner. Generally this course is approximately 180 hours and worth 18 credits.


More details about Forest School qualifications can be found at:



Forest School Myth busting and Useful Information


What is Forest School?  The Forest School ethos is an inspirational and proven approach to learning in outdoor environments. It creates opportunities for learners of all kinds and ages to build lasting confidence, creativity, motivation, resilience, agency, social skills and a deep connection to their natural world. 


If you require more information to help you and your setting make health and safety or training decisions about Forest School please contact us using the details at the bottom of this document.  There is also some useful ‘myth busting’ advice from the Forest School Association at:  http://www.forestschoolassociation.org/forest-school-myth-busting/.  This information might help you to clarify some common misconceptions such as those listed below:


Clarifying some common misconceptions and myths about Forest School – (more detail, discussion and explanation can be found at the link above).


  1.  Forest school is not a type of badge that schools can collect like ‘Eco-Schools or ‘Healthy Schools’ it is a philosophy and ethos of practice.
  2. Just taking your group outside regularly for learning does not necessarily mean you are doing Forest School, you could be doing many different kinds of learning outside the classroom.
  3. You can still do forest school even if you don’t have access to a woodland.
  4. The level of training you require is not dependent on where you are delivering your sessions.  There are not different rules for off or on site delivery.
  5. People often believe you have to be a qualified Forest School leader to use tools or fire with children and young people, this is not necessarily the case.  Also you don’t have to use tools and fire to be doing Forest School.
  6. You don’t have to be a qualified Forest School leader to take groups to a woodland.  You might be doing many different kinds of environmental education, outdoor learning or woodland based activities that don’t require Forest School leader qualifications.
  7. You don’t have to be a teacher to become a Forest School Leader.  There are many teaching assistants, nursery staff, rangers, school governors, parents and others who have trained as Forest School Leaders.


Independent Forest School Practitioner Businesses or Freelancers


If you are not directly employed by a Derbyshire school, nursery or other learning setting and wish to provide Forest School leader services to Derbyshire settings you will need to complete and return a Derbyshire County Council Provider Form (This form can be requested from Derbyshire County Council’s Educational and Off Site Visits Team (contact details below).  When this has been completed, submitted and approved we will be happy to list you on our Derbyshire Forest School Blog Site (www.forestschools.wordpress.com) if you contact our Forest School Leader (contact details below). 


Contacts for further information on Forest School in Derbyshire


If you are based in Derbyshire and are pursuing training at any level, require any other Forest School advice, support or mentoring, or wish to develop your skills please contact Sarah Keogh, Derbyshire Forest School Leader, Derbyshire Environmental Studies Service:

Telephone:    01629 533439

Email:             forestschools@derbyshire.gov.uk

Visit:               www.forestschools.wordpress.com.


If you have any queries regarding Health and Safety for Educational or Off site visits please contact: Arron Cox, Educational/Off Site Visits Team –

Telephone:    01629 536796

Mobile:           07887 822786

Email:             arron.cox@derbyshire.gov.uk  




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