Introduction to Forest School at Sunningdale School

Forest School at Sunningdale involves children having regular opportunities to undertake learning and play in a woodland environment. It is complementary, not separate to learning in a traditional classroom environment and is closely linked to the school’s creative curriculum model. Sessions in Forest School are not timetable or workbook-led, but driven by the learners themselves, drawing on their interests and imagination.


Through Forest School sessions at Sunningdale children are able to develop a lifelong love and understanding of the natural environment, whilst developing the core purposes of the Forest School ethos, namely, development of self-esteem, confidence and social skills.


Forest School Philosophy

The philosophy which underpins the Forest School idea is to encourage and inspire individuals of any age from 2½ years upwards, through mastery of small, achievable tasks in a woodland environment, to grow in confidence and independence so that they are able to develop a sense of self-worth. Children will acquire new skills as they are ready for them so that activities can maintain a degree of challenge and excitement, whilst remaining safe and controlled.


Forest School at Sunningdale seeks to increase each child’s capacity to instigate, test and maintain curiosity in the world around them. Sessions will allow pupils the right to access risk and the vibrant reality of the natural world; and the right to experience a healthy range of emotions, through all the challenges of social interaction, to build a resilience that will enable continued and creative engagement with their peers and their potential.


Children see natural outdoor settings as free from adult agendas and influences. This encourages unrestricted play and the right balance between challenge and discovery will help develop many different skills for life. Playing outdoors, in natural places, supports and develops a child's sense of awareness. They recognise their independence and connection with nature and the outside world.


Experience in other settings has shown Forest School to be inspirational, opinion changing and challenging (for pupils and staff members). It raises expectations and develops insights into individual learning styles and schemas. It is personally and socially uplifting so laying the foundations for other learning. Unlike other forms of outdoor education which generally concentrate on team-building, challenging activities or competitiveness, the Forest School embraces an entirely different approach through the nurturing, support and development of the self-esteem of participants.


Location(s) of Sunningdale Forest School Sessions
Every activity carried out in the outdoors will have an impact on the immediate environment. Sunningdale School attempt to keep this impact to a minimum.


On Site
Sunningdale School has a clearly defined Forest School area, ‘Sunny Wood’, on site that has been specifically risk assessed for use during Forest School sessions.


Off Site

Off site sessions shall be individually planned and specifically risk assessed by the group leader.

Sunningdale School hopes to hold Forest School sessions regularly throughout the year but if the weather becomes too cold e.g <5°C we will base forest school sessions in the school’s Learning Lab and/or  use the school grounds for shorter periods.


On and Off-site Activities
Activities will include (but not be limited to):
Den building, pond dipping, insect safaris, mud sculpting, natural art, instrument making, whittling, tool making, fire building, storm kettle use, cooking, rope tying etc...


Forest School Leaders
James Waller (Assistant Head Teacher), Forest School Practitioner Level 3

Insurance for Forest School Activities covered by SLA Insurance


It is important that all children have appropriate clothing suitable for all weather conditions. Sunningdale School will supply waterproof jackets and trousers for the duration of the Forest School sessions. The waterproofs will be large enough that the children can wear warm clothing underneath.


Regardless of the weather all children are expected to wear long sleeves, long trousers and closed shoes at all times. This will protect them from the sun, stinging plants, scratches etc. Wellies should be worn on wet days.


Sun hats are necessary for sunny days.


Snacks and Lunch
Snacks and water will be provided by Sunningdale School apart from in exceptional circumstances.


Policies and Procedures

Special policies and risk assessments have been designed to help facilitate the Forest School programme and include:

• Role Of The Forest School Leader
• Personal Protective Equipment Information
• Using Tools Information
• Care Of Tools Procedures
• Setting & Lighting Fires Policy
• Adverse Weather & Session Cancellation
• Review Of Policies & Reference To Pre-Existing Policies and Procedures Guidance
• Forest School Site Risk Assessment
• Travel & Transport Risk Assessment
• Use Of Tools Risk Assessment
• Using Rope & String Risk Assessment
• Campfire Risk Assessment
• Building A Shelter Risk Assessment
• Collecting Natural Materials Risk Assessment


To download a printable booklet of guidance written on Outdoor Play & Learning by Deputy Headteacher and Curriculum Lead J. Waller please click here >>


To download information regarding our course, 'Introduction to Forest School', pleae click here >>