Last updated: Wednesday 3rd June
Published 1st June 2020 – Coronavirus (COVID-19): fully outdoor childcare providers guidance for Scotland
On 11th May 2020 the UK government published ‘OUR PLAN TO REBUILD: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy‘.
It has been met with some confusion about what it means for specific circumstances. The FSA recognises that this is a challenging time to make the ‘right’ decision. The FSA has created this guidance in order to enable FS leaders to make bespoke choices which reflect the needs and requirements of their individual settings and communities.
On the same day the Department for Education published ‘Guidance Actions for education and childcare settings to prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020‘
We recommend that Forest School leaders read the guidance from DfE in full. In addition, it is important to note that each of the home nations has different guidelines. Moving forwards, it is likely that local rules and guidelines will be issued in response to flair-ups and clusters of COVID-19 cases. Forest School leaders should be mindful of these differences.
The FSA Perspective
The UK government wants to slowly reopen the country and the economy while protecting the health of the population. People in England should be returning to work from 1st June where it is safe for them to do so (most industries). All childcare in England will be able to re-open from 1st June subject to having appropriate protective measures in place. The range of children eligible to return to school in England will also be expanded from 1st June. Some local authorities have indicated that they will not be able and willing to increase the scale of children returning to school in this time frame.
The government has acknowledged that ‘the risk of transmission outdoors is significantly lower‘. They suggest that people ‘move activity outdoors if you can‘. The DfE ask educators to ‘consider which lessons or classroom activities could take place outdoors‘. They highlight the challenges of implementing protective measures in education settings. One action is to split classes in half, with no more than 15 pupils per small group (early years and primary).
Now may be the time for Forest School to shine. Our members are very well positioned to meet these new needs. The FSA recommends that you start thinking about your own circumstances and client group and whether or not reopening your Forest School provision is the right thing for you in this time frame (assuming that you are closed). Please bear in mind that this time frame is conditional on the COVID-19 epidemic staying under control. Government policy could change at any time. Also, please note that childcare services are eligible in a way that parent/toddler sessions would not be at this time.
Infection control remains as important as ever. So to our need to protect and shield the clinically vulnerable.
The FSA believes that, due to the nature of Forest School sessions and facilitating the play needs of children and young people, the most appropriate precaution that can be taken is to create and maintain learner ‘bubbles’. This means that equipment, resources and the environment can be shared within each ‘bubble’ without significant risk.
We note that children can be infected with CoV-2, and become ill with COVID-19. However, they appear to be less susceptible to infection than adults and their symptoms are generally milder. Early indications (from the W.H.O.) suggest that there is less transmission from children to adults.
The FSA has produced a new resource for members designed to help Forest School providers consider UK government guidance (relevant to England) and the actions that they may take to comply. This tool replaces the template risk/benefit assessment that we previously offered.
FSA members may access this tool at the bottom of this page.
Forest School leaders should produce Risk/Benefit assessments (RBA) that relate to the nCoronavirus epidemic. Your RBA should reflect YOUR circumstances and you must keep it up to date in these rapidly moving times. Risk to the Forest School leader, assistants, participants and wider society should be considered. For instance, those in vulnerable categories should be prevented from attending your sessions (older people and those with underlying health conditions).
The FSA wants to help members explain the benefits of quality Forest School to decision-makers. To that end we have produced a 48 minute video in which our projects officer, Nic Harding, uses a PowerPoint presentation to explore the six core principals and how they align to create holistic development through Forest School provision.
The video is being made available to the public as a way to promote quality FS and the role of the FSA.
The PowerPoint presentation is available to FSA members as a tool to help them advocate for quality FS and their services (funders, clients, senior management teams).
Your RBA should reflect YOUR circumstances and you must keep it up to date in these rapidly moving times. Risk to the Forest School leader, assistants, participants and wider society should be considered. For instance, those in vulnerable categories should be prevented from attending your sessions (older people and those with underlying health conditions).
Forest School Association members may access the Forest School PowerPoint Presentation and the COVID-19 guidance tool below (updated 29/05/20).