The Forest School

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A FOREST environment for learning with a difference has earned Westcott CE Primary School the High Sheriff’s Award Certificate.Once a week pupils from a different year group get to swap the classroom for the forest area. There they get to learn how to identify species of plants, insects and animals and carry out work including coppicing, building dens and clearing away brambles.

Jacob, aged six, examines snowdrops in the Forest area. photo: KT Bruce

Jacob, aged six, examines snowdrops in the Forest area. photo: KT Bruce

The Forest Schools Initiative was introduced at Westcott in June 2012 when Brett Thorne, a parent, helped the Parents and Friends Association fund training for teacher Sarah Bailey. Miss Bailey went on a 10 day course with follow-up assignments and assessed visits and is now the Forest School Co-ordinator.

“Children love spending time in the Forest School, playing games and learning new skills,” says Barry Grace, headteacher. “Forest Schools is important to the children and parents. Without the support of the staff, children, families and members of the community willing to give their time and support at various stages of the project, Forest Schools would not be the success it is today.”

He said staff and parents spent hours clearing an overgrown site to prepare it to become a Forest School area and Waddesdon Estate helped clear away waste and donated seats carved from logs.

Mr Grace added: “We are keen for the use of the Forest School to benefit those in the local community and beyond and welcome visitors by appointment from other schools and children’s clubs who are interested in sharing the fun of learning in a safe and secure environment.”

Children described the things they have been doing. “We have made a fire out of wood from the forest school,” says James. “We played hide and seek,” says Pearl, six. “We created traps out of sticks, leaves and string. I made two levers for my trap,” said Izzy, six. “We have made dens for the animals,” said Harry, four. “We can talk about being safe and spot dangers,” said Corlan, six.

High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, Carolyn Cumming was so impressed when she visited the Forest School site that she will be presenting the Award Certificate to Mr Grace in a ceremony set to take place during the Easter Holidays.

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