We have been engaging with our members on a regular basis during COVID. Through our additional COVID related support activities, we think that we have built up a fairly good broad picture of things. Please let us know if this picture is correct and where the gaps are.
We think ….
Most Forest School leaders have restarted delivery. This will have picked up in the first half of the Autumn term. What is not clear is whether or not it is Forest School delivery or else outdoor education.
Forest School leaders are caught between new school timings, COVID safe preparations and delivery, and maintaining the Forest School principles.
We hear that most Forest School leaders are personally absorbing the additional costs rather than allowing the Forest School principles to suffer. This manifests in a number of important ways:
· Running Forest School for fewer clients – financial implications
· Secondary incomes are not there because opportunities have dried up but also because leaders are trying to maintain quality Forest school provision – financial implications
· Additional logistics such as cleaning equipment over lunch time – personal costs in terms of self-care and handling additional stress
This situation is not sustainable in the long term.
Where the principles cannot be protected we hear that it is often where an intervention approach was previously being employed. Typically, these would be small groups involving children from multiple bubbles. This is no longer possible. Instead, leaders are doing 6 sessions for all class bubbles, which means fewer sessions, greater numbers per session and a greater child to adult ratio. Apart from having a reduced positive effect on the holistic development of the cohort, this will also have a greater negative impact on the environment.
Difficulties with transportation are also noted. Some settings are seeing Forest School as a valuable way to mitigate the impacts of COVID. In others, we are seeing COVID preclude any ‘extras’ such as Forest School. We could speculate that this depends on the value already placed on nature connection and outdoor learning pre Covid.
Forest School Day, which is supported by the FSA, yielded numerous quotes about the value of Forest School during COVID times. However, there are also many examples of Forest School not being supported by decision-makers at this time. It is worth noting that the wider Forest School community has really turned to the FSA for support during this period.
We will look at running a survey of our members if we can find the spare capacity/resources to do so.