A part of the ethos of forest school is “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”. The idea is that if sufficient, comfortable and appropriate clothing is provided, all children can enjoy the forest school experience in all weathers. The only exception to this is high winds and lightning, it not being wise to be under the trees if there is a risk of falling trees or branches, however meadows or fields could be utilised.
It is recommended that all children bring the following kit to change into before each forest school session;
Boots – we recommend Sorel waterproof boots (please ensure they are fully waterproof and not the snow boots which are only waterproof on the toes) or find a good pair of waterproof walking boots. These are both much better than Wellington boots as they will fit your child’s feet properly allowing them to run and climb safely. Plastic wellies offer very poor insulation and children’s feet quickly get cold and sweaty in the summer. If they must wear wellies, then several pairs of socks are essential in the winter months or we recommend Demar Wellingtons which are made of ultra light and insulating material EVA and have fleece liners giving cold insulation, which allows to keep the feet warm and cosy even at temperature -30*, get the ones with a draw string at the top. (Link)
Long trousers – both in Summer and Winter we will be asking for children to wear their dungarees, to keep warm, dry and to protect from scratches, bites and sunburn. Even on warm days it can be cooler under the shadow of the trees. We would recommend base layer leggings under the dungarees in Merino wool and/or polyester blend – for a warm base layer with excellent wicking performance and a durable fabric. In winter the mid-layer should be a material which has good thermal properties. Try to avoid cotton wherever possible.
Long sleeved top – both in Summer and Winter, to keep warm and to protect from scratches, bites and sunburn.
Layers of clothing appropriate to the temperature and the season – in Winter the children will need at least three layers to keep warm. We find that base layer leggings, trousers and the waterproof dungarees work well for their bottom half, and for the top half, a base layer top, long sleeved top, good quality fleece and waterproof jacket is a good mix. Merino wool and/or polyester blend – for a warm base layers with excellent wicking performance and a durable fabric. Please be aware that any cotton layers will soak up sweat and will leave you child cold, even on cold wet days your child will get hot and sweaty under their waterproofs. Its not about the amount of layers your child has on to keep warm and dry its about the type of fabrics the layers are in.
Waterproof top and trousers or a waterproof all in one suit
Hat (for sun or warmth depending on the season) and waterproof gloves.
These should be old clothes or clothes that parents/guardians do not mind getting dirty. They will get dirty.
Children should change back to school uniform after each forest school session.
In summer, it is recommended to wear long trousers and long sleeved tops because it is cooler under the trees and they help to protect from insect bites and scratches.
Risk assessment is an integral part of Forest School as learners develop their self-esteem and learn to manage risk for themselves.
The Forest School Association say;
Principle 4: 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.
As a Forest School practitioner, I continuously engage in ongoing risk assessment before, during and after activities. In addition, I carry out a site risk assessment before a site is used and recommend any changes to be made to the site before commencement of a Forest School program. A daily / sessional risk assessment of the site is carried out before use, looking out for fallen or unsafe trees or branches and for litter. Risk assessments are carried out for activities during the planning stage, taking into account the potential benefits of taking part in an activity to the participants, and weighed against the potential risks the activity could hold. This is an evolutionary process where risks can change over time as a group of individuals become more familiar with the Forest School approach and with managing their own behaviour and managing their own risks.
Introduction of activities involving tool use and fire is done in a gradual and managed way to ensure the safety of all persons involved. Children will only be allowed to use tools or fire under direct supervision of the Forest School leader. All equipment is checked by the Forest School leader before use and all tools are maintained by the Forest School leader.
Written risk assessments are working documents and as such, are subject to change. Sites change through the seasons so risk assessments are reviewed regularly to reflect this. These risk assessments are shared with other parties involved such as teachers, helpers and parents present at Forest School sessions. I use a system of risk-benefit analysis to ensure that all risks taken are properly managed, but also there is a benefit to taking that risk.
Relevant risk benefit analyses and all documents are electronically stored on this site to allow continuous access. Should you need to access these documents, please register on this site (scroll to the bottom of the home page) and send me a message and I will grant you access to your relevant documents.
Fulfils Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage 2012 (3.63)
|Hazard||Anything that has the potential to cause harm, either physical or psychological.|
|Risk||The likelihood of the potential harm from the hazard being realised.|
|Accident||An unplanned, uncontrolled event which has led to injury to people, damage to equipment or the environment or some other loss.|
|Near Miss||An unplanned, uncontrolled event which could have led to injury to people, damage to equipment or the environment or some other loss. This is used to inform and alter practice.|
|Incident||A happening, event or occurrence caused by ignoring or not adhering to set rules, boundaries, policies or laws.|
|Safety||Taking positive steps to identify accident causes and implement suitable preventative measures.|
Any Outdoor Learning involves elements of risk. The benefits of appropriate risk are vital to children’s development. Forest School develops learners understanding of risk, involves the learners in the risk management process and supports learners to take acceptable risks. Forest School leaders are trained in relevant Health and Safety issues. Every qualified Forest School level 3 leader will have a handbook containing all the appropriate policies, procedures, risk assessments and other relevant documentations. Every Leader will also be trained in emergency outdoor first aid. Leaders will consider the setting, child, local conditions and any other considerations when deciding what activities to undertake with children. There is an on-going process of observation and instruction gradually leading up to the use of tools or fire over an extended period of time ensuring risks are introduced and managed in a safe and consistent way. Risks are weighed up against benefits in a risk benefit analysis.
The HSE have produced some guidance into managing risk in a balanced way.
Further details of risk – benefit analysis can be found in