The day before our annual FSA Conference last year in Surrey, the Endorsed Trainer Group gathered at the nearby Wildlife Trust ancient woodland Nower Wood.  All trainers that have been through the FSA Endorsed Trainer Quality Assurance process are eligible to become part of the group.  We currently have 13 members (details of all of the Endorsed Trainers can be found here:  https://www.forestschoolassociation.org/find-a-forest-school-trainer/#!directory/map)

Our Endorsed Trainer Group aims to gather twice a year; a day just before the conference and then a spring overnighter in the woods.  Our day at Nower was productive and fun, with an agenda devised by the group to cater to our own needs.  We had a ‘Golden Nuggets’ session where we all shared a little of what had been working well for us and our students recently; discussions ranged from the concept of ‘unexperting’ to the logistics of wild-weeing!  Endorsed Trainer and current FSA Chair, Lily Horseman, facilitated an outdoor session which helped us explore the metaludic cycle in a hands-on way.   Following our sharing lunch, we went for walks in coaching pairs set up by Sarah Lawfull who has, over recent years, undertaken a lot of training in this area.   With our diversity of trainers, we were able to have an interesting ‘Sharing Session’ about the challenges and opportunities various course structures offer and also one focused upon our approaches to covering learning theory during Level 3 courses.  Thanks to Charlotte Atkinson we were able to reflect on the purpose and efficacy of the various strategies we use for reviewing learning during Forest School courses.  Richard Irvine joined us all the way from Devon and led us on an exploration of peer assessment and feedback.  To round off the day CEO of the FSA Gareth Davies also joined us to provide a welcome update on the strategic work of the FSA, including how we are influencing at the policy-making level.

Despite our differing starting points and specialisms, we have created a self-managing and healthy functioning group that we are proud of.  The Endorsed Trainer Group have fed back how valuable they find being part of this open and active network:

Devon-based Endorsed Trainer Richard Irvine says: “Being able to meet with fellow FSA Endorsed Trainers, discuss training issues and support each other’s practice is, for me, the cherry on the cake of the training quality assurance process. Our day at Nower Wood was social as well as professional and was the deepest, most directly relevant professional development I have had in a long time. Having an independent facilitator skilfully holding the event together made the whole thing very focussed and it was well worth the long journey for a one-day meeting. I look forward to the group gaining more members and it continuing to promote quality Forest School training in the UK.”

Sarah Lawful, an Endorsed Trainer working in Oxfordshire, says: “I find each face-to-face meeting inspirational, personally and professionally.  We are exploring different ways of training and together are reflecting on ways of developing the qualifications offered.  It is great to be part of such a reflective, encouraging, challenging, non-judgmental, generous community.  Having a body of trusted professional trainers to call on for advice is invaluable to me.  We encourage each other to try new things, to learn from our mistakes, to fail forward.  We are all passionate about the transformative power of quality Forest School training and provision.”

And, Endorsed Trainer Charlotte Atkinson from Suffolk says: “I recognise that being a Forest School Leader can sometimes be a lonely job and that’s why I really try to encourage my groups of trainees to form and join support networks so that they can share, develop and grow in their role (as per Forest School Principle 5).  As a Forest School trainer, working largely by myself to deliver training, the Endorsed Trainers’ Group has been and continues to be an invaluable group of peers with whom I can share, develop and grow in my role.  I love discussing with the group the different ways in which we deliver elements of the course as this enables me to reflect on my own practice and consider what I do well and what I could do even better to improve my training for my students.  Because we all have different backgrounds and therefore different strengths and passions, this really helps me to think outside of my own ‘bubble’ and develop new ideas and ways of thinking.  Having external consultants support and manage the group, really helps and I don’t think that there’s a better opportunity in the UK for Forest School trainers to develop their own practice than by joining the Forest School Association Endorsed Trainers Group.”

If you would like to join our group and are interested in becoming an FSA Endorsed Trainer please visit https://www.forestschoolassociation.org/forest-school-trainer-quality-assurance-scheme/#!form/QAschemeapplicationform and email Nell Seal: salixeducation@gmail.com  Our next gathering is in beautiful Monmouthshire, in April 2020, around a campfire and next to a micro-brewery: we are hoping that the ideas will once again flow 🙂

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