Forest School Training all you Need to Know, Levels 1, 2 & 3

Forest school activities are run through a specific ethos that people are trained in. Those trained in this ethos are called forest school leaders. We discuss forest school training and how you can become a forest school leader.

Some leaders go on to create their own forest school company to lend their services to schools and other organisations, while others work with or for those companies. Some teachers have been known to gain forest school qualifications so that they can implement forest school teachings in their own workplaces.

Forest School Qualifications

There are four levels of forest school training, and different qualifications you can gain at each level. Anyone wishing to train in these qualifications should ensure that the school or company they’re training with is accredited. Non-accredited courses mean very little in the world of work, and they could contain incorrect learning materials.

How to start forest school training

Any forest school leader hopeful will need to find an accredited company or school to teach them the syllabus for each level qualification. To become a leader, you will need a Level 3 qualification.

Many forest schools will be able to advise you on which courses to take to become a leader, but a quick search for a reputable and accredited course is easy to do. The cost for a Level 1 course is around £250. Candidates should take into account the finances required for these courses, as they are not covered by standard educational loans or government student loans.

Recommended forest school reading for training and development:

Sale
Forest School Adventure: Outdoor Skills and Play for Children
Forest School Adventure: Outdoor Skills and Play for Children
Dan Westall (Author); English (Publication Language); 176 Pages - 05/07/2018 (Publication Date) - GMC (Publisher)
£12.91
Sale
Play the Forest School Way: Woodland Games and Crafts for Adventurous Kids
Play the Forest School Way: Woodland Games and Crafts for Adventurous Kids
Jane Worroll (Author); English (Publication Language); 160 Pages - 05/27/2016 (Publication Date) - Watkins Publishing Ltd (Publisher)
£11.04
Sale
50 Fantastic Ideas for Forest School
50 Fantastic Ideas for Forest School
Barnes, Jamie Victoria (Author); English (Publication Language); 64 Pages - 03/05/2020 (Publication Date) - Featherstone (Publisher)
£9.54
Sale
Forest School for All
Forest School for All
Knight, Sara (Author); English (Publication Language); 272 Pages - 05/31/2011 (Publication Date) - Sage Publications Ltd (Publisher)
£25.96
Sale
Forest School and Outdoor Learning in the Early Years
Forest School and Outdoor Learning in the Early Years
Knight, Sara (Author); English (Publication Language); 176 Pages - 06/17/2013 (Publication Date) - Sage Publications Ltd (Publisher)
£20.35
Sale
The Stick Book: Loads of things you can make or do with a stick (Going Wild)
The Stick Book: Loads of things you can make or do with a stick (Going Wild)
Danks, Fiona (Author); English (Publication Language); 128 Pages - 03/15/2012 (Publication Date) - Frances Lincoln (Publisher)
£7.72

Level 1

Level 1 is typically an introduction course for those new to forest schools. You may find these courses under names like “Introduction to forest schools” or “Award in outdoor learning”. Whatever name it has, the material usually covers the types of development that take place at a forest school activity, while also helping learners develop their own practical skills. Level 1 courses take two days, and the only entry requirement should be that you are at least 16 years old. They will also need access to a forest school programme that is run by a leader with a level 3 qualification.

Level 1 is an introduction to the world of forest schools, covering the basic principles and ideals behind forest schools and just what makes them so unique.

Duration and cost: Level 1 is approximately 30 hours of work, and worth 3 credits once completed. The course is usually £250.

Safe Campfire

Course content

A Level 1 award will provide the learner will the skills they need to become a part of a forest school team. They are not qualified to lead a programme or to be an assistant, but they can help with the setup and running of activities. Learners will gain insight into risk management, the forest school approach to learning, and the impacts that a forest school has on woodland environments. You will be taught to be safe and conscientious when helping in a forest school, while also being given the knowledge of practical skills to make you a vital member of a forest school team. The main areas of a Level 1 course are the principles of forest schools and the ethos that all forest schools follow.

Finding a trainer

Finding a trainer may feel more difficult, especially for younger applicants. When in doubt, always email ahead to the trainer or organisation with any questions that you have.

There are several official forest school associations that have information on their websites about finding a reputable trainer in your area. Some, like the forest school association, themselves, have a fully interactive map and list of individual trainers.

Wood Carving Child

We’ve listed a number of Level 1 trainers below to help you get started on your forest school journey. All of these trainers also offer a range of Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications, and you may feel that you are better suited to starting at a higher level, rather than beginning at Level 1.

Sussex Wildlife Trust (running courses in Sussex and Brighton)

Cambium Sustainable (running courses in locations across England, including Cambridge and Walsall)

Green Bow (running courses in the London area)

ForestSchools.com (offering courses throughout the UK)

Field Studies Council (running courses at Bishops Wood Centre, Stourport-on-Severn)

Huathe (courses run by Elizabeth Swift in Essex)

Hampshire & IOW Wildlife Trust (courses run by Dawn Preston in Southampton)

Level 2

Level 2 must have experience working with children, and consequently, they should also have a DBS. These candidates will need to assist another Level 3 leader with a few sessions of a forest school programme. These are the standard requirements for a Level 2 forest school assistant training qualification.

An alternative Level 2 qualification would be Level 2 as an Outdoor Learning Practitioner. While an assistant qualification will allow someone to assist a Level 3 leader with their forest school programme. A Level 2 Outdoor Learning Practitioner will teach you how to start writing your own curriculum and deliver it effectively.

Forest school level 2 leader

Duration and cost: Level 2 is approximately 70 hours of work, and worth 7 credits once completed. The course is between £300 and £500 on average.

Entry requirements

Learners should typically be 18 years of age. Depending on the school teaching the course, you may or may not need a Level 1 forest school qualification to enter your chosen Level 2 course. At the very least, most trainers will ask that applicants have experience working with young people and/or children.

Course content

Your forest school training Level 2 qualification is all about supporting the children and the forest school programme leader that you would be assisting. You will gain the skills to help children develop and learn in a wild setting, while also being given the knowledge you need to assist the leader of the forest school.

You and your trainer will discuss the forest schools approach to learning, the forest school ethos, and the benefits of having a positive attitude to risk-taking. Practical skills covered in standard Level 2 courses include safe lighting on-site, managing a campfire, hand tool safety, and you will also learn a range of typical forest school games and activities.

In addition, Level 2 courses cover basic forest knowledge; such as the identity of common woodland flora and fauna.

Finding a trainer

The forest school association and other forest school bodies are always looking for new trainers to add to their lists. But, like any course you may be interested in, you should still look at the qualifications of the course’s trainers and ask questions before paying for a course.

Remember that there are many options for forest school training courses. You can train with a school, on a course from an awarding body, in a college, or with an individual forest school trainer. The sky’s the limit and search engines are your friend. In the next section of this article, you’ll find a few awarding bodies and names of companies that can train you as a Level 2 assistant.

Man In Woods

Forest School level 2 training locations

The forest school association supports the following Awarding Bodies for Level 2 forest school training:

  • Open College Network West Midlands
  • AIM Awards
  • NOCN
  • CERTA
  • ITC First
  • LASER Awards
  • Newbattle Abbey College (Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework)

Other trainers and associations outside of this list are readily available. For examples of possible locations and trainers, see the list below:

Level 3

Once a candidate has a Level 2 qualification, several more pathways open up for a Level 3 qualification. There are qualifications at Level 3 in leading forest schools, being a Coastal School Leader, learning how to Coordinate an outdoor curriculum, and more. Level 3 forest school training is what many consider the final stage of training before you can run your own forest school sessions. It’s the most expensive of the three levels and takes the longest to complete.

Level 3 training is specifically designed to help candidates qualify to become a forest school leader/practitioner. These forest school leaders will be able to set up and run their own forest school programmes using the knowledge they have gained over the three levels of qualifications.

Forest School

This final level covers how to facilitate groups in a way that is centred on the children attending your programme, and how to manage the site of your forest school. Level 3 also introduces the practical skills needed to be a forest school leader.

Duration and cost: Level 3 is approximately 180 hours of work, and worth 18 credits once completed. The course is between £500 and £900 on average.

Entry requirements

Learners should typically be 19 years of age, though they may not act as a forest school leader until they are 21 years old. They should already hold both a Level 1 and Level 2 forest school qualification and have some experience assisting in forest school programmes.

Some schools will offer this qualification without any prior experience, but they will still expect that you have access to a forest school while you are on the course.

Course content

The standard Level 3 forest school training qualification will have several elements. You will be expected to complete modules that outline the delivery of forest school programmes, as well as how to plan and prepare for your activities.

Forest School Qualifications (1)

You will be educated on the woodland environment, as well as taught practical skills you will need to be a competent forest school leader. You will also be taught how to assist the attendees of your programme in their learning and development.

Many Level 3 forest school qualifications will require that the student works towards a First Aid certification during their course, as well.

Finding a trainer

The forest school association is ever looking for new forest schools to endorse as providers of the forest school ethos and forest school programmes. However, you should still look at the qualifications of any trainer you’re in contact with and ask questions before paying for a course. It is not recommended to attend a course that isn’t officially linked to one of the national forest school associate companies.

Questions you could ask a trainer are as follows:

  1. What does the training cover?
  2. Will I achieve a recognised qualification?
  3. Which awarding body is responsible for that qualification?
  4. How much experience do you have as a trainer?
  5. How long have you been working as a forest school trainer?
  6. Are you connected to any of the national forest school support contacts? (Such as the Forest School Association, Forest Education Network, Forest School Wales, or the Forest Education Initiative.)

Training locations

The forest school association supports the following awarding bodies for Level 3 forest school training:

  • Open College Network West Midlands
  • AIM Awards
  • NOCN
  • CERTA
  • ITC First
  • LASER Awards
  • Newbattle Abbey College (Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework)

There are, of course, other trainers available that are linked to other forest school associations. The forest school association has a list of registered trainers on its website.

To give a few examples of possible locations, Sussex Wildlife Trust offers the qualification, as does Woodland Adventures in Bath, and Forest Schools in Sheffield who run training at a number of locations across the UK.

Boy Balancing On Log

Level 4

Lastly, the Level 4 qualification. This qualification is for outdoor learning and being a forest school trainer. Level 4 is delivered in several stages, and candidates must have two years of experience delivering an outdoor learning curriculum, as well as a recognised Level 3 qualification in education, training or teaching.

Are you a forest school leader? Let us know your experiences in the comments below!

Leave a Comment