Hillside Community Primary School

Together we can shine

The Forest School Ethos

Forest School is a unique educational experience and process that offers children the opportunity to succeed and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland environment.

Children engage in motivating activities throughout the year and in almost all weathers, with the appropriate footwear and clothing. Children will work with tools, play, learn and begin to understand the boundaries of behaviour, both physical and social. They will grow in confidence, self- esteem and motivation whilst developing an understanding of the natural world.


A Forest School encourages children to:

  • develop personal and social skills
  • work through practical problems and challenges
  • use tools to create, build or manage
  • discover how they learn best
  • pursue knowledge that interests them
  • learn how to manage failures
  • build confidence in decision making and evaluating risk
  • develop practical skills
  • understand the benefits of a balanced and healthy lifestyle
  • explore connections between humans, wildlife and the earth
  • regularly experience achievement and success
  • reflect on learning and experiences
  • develop their language and communication skills
  • improve physical motor skills
  • become more motivated
  • improve their concentration skills
  • improve their communication
  • explore the world through all the senses available to them

What happens at Forest School?

Typically, small groups of individuals (depending on child/adult ratio) take part in a programme of six weekly sessions lasting for about an hour. The sessions involve practical hands-on activities which aim to build up participants’ skills, abilities and confidence week by week.

All sessions are designed and led by trained staff, with the direction of Hillside Forest School Lead. However, Forest School strongly encourages participant–led learning, so as the weeks progress, learners are given more freedom and responsibility to explore their interests and therefore initiate and direct their own learning.

Forest School uses natural resources to stimulate imagination, creativity and investigation. Activities can include:

  • Shelter building
  • Natural art
  • Using knots and lashings
  • Fire lighting
  • Animal tracking
  • Bug hunts
  • Tree investigations
  • Climbing and balancing
  • Woodwork using tools
  • Creating bug homes and bird feeders
  • Collecting, identifying and sorting natural materials such as leaves
  • Team games

The benefits of Forest School

Forest School is suited to all ages and abilities. The aim of Forest School is to develop the person as a whole. Completing small achievable tasks, coupled with genuine praise from leaders, helps to boost confidence and self-esteem. For children at school, attitudes to learning are improved as they find that learning can be fun and enjoyable. This new positive outlook can then be transferred to the classroom where they are found to be more motivated and able to concentrate better.

Forest School can also:

  • Develop physical abilities and help participants to stay active and healthy.
  • Heighten self-awareness and improve emotional and social skills.
  • Promote co-operative and group working.
  • Encourage participants to take care of themselves and others.
  • Foster care, appreciation and respect for wildlife and wild places.
  • Broaden knowledge and understanding of the natural world.

Forest School Staff

Hillside CP School Forest School is led by Michael Dibben (Level 3 Forest School Practitioner) and is teacher led by Rachel Dibben (Year 3 teacher and Curriculum lead). All staff and volunteers have undergone an appropriate selection process to assess their skills and suitability for working with children and have been subject to enhanced DBS checks. All sessions are staffed by a qualified first aider (paediatric/forest school) and all staff have access to a recommended first aid kit.

Reception became eco-warriors as they trawled the school grounds looking for any rubbish that had blown in during the half term break. They managed to fill an entire trolley, which will help nature so much. As they walked around, children spotted some beautiful seasonal changes as they came across daffodils, crocuses and daisies!