Last updated: Wednesday 06/01/21
We recognise that members must be feeling worried and worn out with the news of the third national lockdown (announced 04/01/21). The lockdown is the government’s attempt to prevent the rate of infection increasing exponentially, which is a seeming possibility as a result of the holidays, winter season and new COVID strain. Exponential growth would quickly overwhelm the NHS’s capacity to treat the population. We hope that the end of the winter season and roll out of the immunisation programme will allow things to improve in 2021.
The latest national lock-down should not affect Forest School activity in early years settings (which may remain open) or those of us who work with vulnerable/SEND/section 17 children and young people. In addition to these categories, schools and colleges are only open to the children of critical workers.
Those Forest School leaders who are continuing with their sessions should ensure that their Risk Benefit Assessments are robust and up to date.
Last updated: Tuesday 3rd November 2020
The FSA has collated government guidance, as of 4th July, relating to various outdoor education settings.
The FSA Perspective
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).
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).
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 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).