Working towards recognition of Trainers using the Agored Cymru Outdoors Learning qualifications

UPDATE 19/03/19: The FSA has agreed to extend the deadline for trained Forest School practitioners with Agored qualifications wishing to join the FSA recognised Forest School Provider scheme. The new deadline is end of March 2020. This represents the point at which we hope and expect there to be an agreement in place concerning the Agored qualifications, which are coming up for their 5 year review.

UPDATE 29/12/2018: The FSA and Outdoor Learning Trainers Network for Wales are working together to find a solution as to how the FSA can recognise Agored Forest School qualifications in the future. As an interim measure the FSA has agreed to extend the deadline for trained Forest School practitioners with Agored qualifications wishing to join the FSA recognised Forest School Provider scheme. The new deadline is end of May 2019. 

The significant differences between the Forest School Qualifications currently supported by the FSA and the Outdoor Learning qualifications developed by Outdoor Learning Trainers Network for Wales are problematic. Whilst we recognise that the whole qualification can be aimed at developing Forest School practise, in the Agored course there is a difference in emphasis on the importance of play and emotional development. There is a difference in depth of exploration of the woodland environment in particular as other environments are considered. The new RQF qualification has more emphasis on the Forest School principles. These differences may be seen in full in the comparison table below. Fundamentally, the credit gap alone makes it impossible for the FSA to accept the Agored qualification under the Forest School Trainer QA Scheme. Agored level 3 qualification is worth 14 credits and the FSA endorsed level 3 qualifications are worth 18 credits.

The time line leading up to this situation is important to understand.

Original NOCN Forest School Qualification

Developed early 2000s with involvement of Forestry Commission and Trainers in Wales and England.

Originally worth 21 credits with 5 units. This was reduced to 18 credits in 2006.

CONCLUSION: ALMOST ALL UK FOREST SCHOOL TRAINERS, EXCEPT FOR BRIDGWATER COLLEGE (USING THE BTEC THAT THEY DEVELOPED IN 1995), WERE ORIGINALLY USING THE NOCN FOREST SCHOOL QUALIFICATIONS.

From 2012 Nov 23rd GBFSTN minutes

Update from Wales representative. 'OCN Wales are stepping away from NOCN but trainers in Wales can use the English units.  Although no decisions have been made the general consensus was that as Wales is less than 2years away from reviewing their units Wales will probably adopt the new units.  LM said Wales can already use the present units.'

CONCLUSION: ALL FOREST SCHOOL TRAINERS, INCLUDING THOSE IN WALES, WERE USING THE SAME UNITS, WORTH THE SAME NUMBER OF CREDITS, AT THAT TIME.

From 2013 Oct 11th GBFSTN minutes

State that communication between GBFSTN and FSA is a formal process, that GBFSTN and FSA are two separate organisations and that they will be working with each other to develop the Forest School Trainer QA scheme.

CONCLUSION: GBFSTN AND FSA GAVE CLEAR SIGNAL THAT THEY WOULD DEVELOP THE FS TRAINERS QA TOGETHER. WELSH TRAINERS HAVE A REPRESENTATIVE IN THAT GROUP AND WILL HAVE BEEN MADE AWARE.

Taken from GBFSTN guidance note 3, reviewed Jan 2014

Forest School Practitioners Award - Level 3

Level 3 is equivalent to A Level and can be delivered with less than 50% contact time.  The award comprises 5 units (3 in Wales) and is worth 18 credits amounting to approximately 90 guided learning hours.

CONCLUSION: WELSH AWARDING ORGANISATION WAS STILL OFFERING A LEVEL 3 QUALIFICATION WORTH 18 CREDITS AT THAT TIME.

December 2014

The FSA publishes a policy statement on FSA endorsed qualifications (QCF LISTED FOREST SCHOOL QUALIFICATIONS) and UK Awarding Bodies offering Forest School qualifications. It invites Awarding Organisations to seek FSA endorsement.

CONCLUSION: THE GB FOREST SCHOOL TRAINING COMMUNITY WAS AWARE THAT THE FSA WAS FORMALLY ENDORSING THE QCF FOREST SCHOOL QUALIFICATIONS AND ENDORSING THOSE AWARDING ORGANISATIONS THAT USED THESE QUALIFICATIONS AND WHICH MET THE NECESSARY CRITERIA.

From Sept 2015 GBFSTN minutes

15.25 Awarding bodies

Now the qualification is on QCF, anyone can clone it. 3 awarding bodies have approached FSA as gatekeeper to back their cloning. FSA have said yes, on condition that they use the qualification guide produced by OCNWMR. A few colleges have been popping up with lecturers delivering level 3 without any of their own delivery experience. Eg. A college in Hampshire has begun to start training without having their own level 3; another example where people are advertising training before having completed their level 3 and the EV disagreed with evidence; another trainee who is selling training without 2 years delivery experience.

FSA has no ‘policing power’ but can make a statement regarding their stance on training providers. They can also lobby the awarding bodies asking them to be strict on criteria for trainer quality. We all agreed that the FSA quality assurance process is important to develop in the future, and to raise the profile of FSA in this role. Insurance companies are quite good at specifying level 3 for their FS leaders, and possibly also for professional indemnity angles.

ACTION: FSTN ask the FSA to approach insurance companies who are insuring trainers to look at the conditions of their professional indemnity and include guidance from OCNWMR qualification.

CONCLUSION: FSA ARE THE RECOGNISED GATEKEEPER FOR THE QCF QUALIFICATIONS AND ARE WORKING WITH THE GBFSTN AND AWARDING ORGANISATIONS TO TRY TO MAINTAIN STANDARDS IN FOREST SCHOOL TRAINING.

From OCTOBER 2015 GBFSTN minutes

Informed by Wales (e-mail from Carol) that Wales have diversified, a suite of qualifications have been developed under their awarding body (Agored). The training network share the CPD and have made it into recognised qualifications that cover a range. Overview of the qualifications structure sent to SL. Have updated the L3. 14 credits and 5 modules. A range of L3 qualifications, relevant to the region – using coastal areas too. Would be useful to have the detail of their units for the working party.

CONCLUSION: WELSH TRAINERS DEVELOPED A NEW L3 QUALIFCATION (WORTH 14 CREDITS) WITH AGORED AFTER THE GBFSTN AND FSA ADDED FSA ENDORSED FOREST SCHOOL QUALIFICATIONS (WORTH 18 CREDITS) TO THE QCF.

It is worth noting that the FSA did not notice this report to the GBFSTN in the October 2015 minutes and were unaware of the drop in credit value of the new Agored L3 qualification. An opportunity was missed to spot this issue earlier.

We also note that we did not see the detail of the new units at that time. No representation was made by Trainers, using the Agored units, to the FSA concerning the development of the Forest School Trainers QA scheme. This is surprising because Welsh Trainers have a representative on the GBFSTN and some members of that group use the Agored units. They were aware of the following:

  1. The GBFSTN as a group was consulted and individuals participated in the development of the FS Trainers QA scheme.
  2. The GBFSTN had, as a group previously agreed to use the QCF qualifications that the group had helped to develop and which were to be endorsed by the FSA.

Clearly, no-one had an idea that the new Agored qualifications were significantly different to the endorsed Forest School qualifications or else, doubtless, someone would have said or done something.

In the spring and summer of 2017 the FSA first realised that there could be a problem with our ability to recognise the Agored units within the Forest School Trainers QA Scheme. This was when the FSA piloted the QA scheme and two trainers using Agored units applied.

Since then the FSA has conducted a review of the two qualifications (plus the revised endorsed qualification) and produced the comparison table below.

The FSA board see the following options that OLTN in Wales members may wish to consider.

  1. Switch from Agored to another Awarding Organisation that offers FSA endorsed Forest School qualifications. We are not aware of anything preventing Trainers based in Wales from using qualifications offered by Awarding Organisations in England or vice versa. We understand that the largest Training Company using Agored qualifications is actually based in England.
  2. Encourage Agored to adopt the FSA endorsed qualifications.
  3. Work with Agored to revise the current L3 Outdoor Learning qualification so that it can be mapped onto the FSA endorsed L3 Forest School qualification. The FSA is happy to discuss how it may be able to assist with this option.

Comparison between Agored and QCF/RQF units for level 3 Forest School:

QCF (current units)

Since 2013

RQF (new units from 2018) Agored

Operational Start Date: 01/08/2015

Number of units 5 5 5
Number of credits 18 18 14
Guided Learning Hours 126 96 50
Total qualification time 180 180 Not stated.

Based on guidance calculated at 143

Between 36 and 61 guided learning hours depending on pathway chosen Pathways offer 10-17 credits. 35% contact time stated in guidance notes

Unit titles ·  Planning a Forest School programme

·  Delivery of a Forest School programme

·  Learning and development at a Forest School Programme

·  Forest School programme and the Woodland environment

·  Practical skills for a Forest School programme

·  Planning and preparation for a FS programme

·  Delivery of a FS programme

·  Learning and development at a FS programme

·  FS programme and the woodland environment

·  Practical skills for a FS programme

·  Forest School Leader

·  Observation and Evaluation
of Outdoor Learning

·  Supporting Learning, Play and Development in the Outdoors

·  Sustainable Use of Natural Resources

·  Teaching Outdoor Practical Skills

Unit comparison Planning a FS programme/ FS leader 9 A.C 9 A.C 10 A.C
Credits 3 3 4
Content Includes evaluation of  FS research Includes reflective A.C found in QCF/RQF L&D unit and history of FS AC found in QCF/RQF planning unit
Unit comparison delivery of FS/observation of outdoor learning 5 A.C 5 A.C 4 A.C
Credits 3 3 2
Content Includes case studies on individuals (2.1,2.2) No mention of Forest School and the particular approach
Unit comparison Learning and development /supporting play and development 15 A.C 12 A.C 10 A.C
Credits 6 6 3
Content Learning outcomes not included in Agored units include

- a summary of the forest school approach to learning (2.1)

- emphasis on personal, social and emotional outcomes.(2.5, 2.6)

- emphasis on play separate from other theories (2.7, 2.8)

- Role of an FS leader (4.1)

As QCF but with greater emphasis on FS principles and community of learning No specific mention of FS or FS approach throughout.
Unit Comparison woodland env /natural resources 6 A.C 7 A.C 7 A.C
Credits 3 3 2
Content A.C that relates to impacts of connecting with natural environments 4.1, 4.2 Greater range of learning outcomes including threats to ecosystems and impact on flora and fauna. (1.2, 1.3)

Includes a broader range of habitats; mountain, coastal, moorland and river (1.1, 2.1, 2.2)

Unit comparison Practical skills/ outdoor practical skills 12 A.C 18 A.C 3 A.C (with 8 sub headings)
Credits 3 3 3
content Separates ability to demonstrate skills and how to facilitate them with clients in a Forest School context
Organisations involved in development OCNWR/FSTN/FSA OCNWR/FSTN/FSA Agored/ OTLN/ FSWales

 

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