The FSA Recognised Forest School Provider Scheme was ‘soft launched’ earlier this year and officially launched In October.

Some numbers and statistics:

  • We’ve had 63 notifications since the soft launch.
  • Of these, 37 have gone on to submit their applications.
  • Of the 37, we are still processing 8 (waiting for additional information).
  • We’ve approved 22.
  • Refused 5.
  • 2 providers have chosen to withdraw.

We can calculate that there is a 76% success rate for applicants. We expect this to improve as the scheme matures. Although we are only assessing that providers meet the 6 principles of Forest School, the application is a significant undertaking that requires the provider to have all the essential elements of Forest School in place. No one has yet managed to get straight through the process without us needing to ask for further information, or evidence, about their provision. These may be straightforward matters but sometimes applicants find that they need to make some significant changes to their practice and provision. Feedback from successful candidates is often that they have found the process to be an excellent opportunity to reflect on their practice and provision and to make any necessary adjustments.

All applicants now have an opportunity to discuss their application with the Development Officer before submitting it.

Feedback about the scheme as a whole has been interesting. The scheme’s purpose in recognising and promoting Forest School provision, so that it may be easily located and celebrated, appears to be broadly understood and accepted. This fits within the FSA’s objective of promoting quality Forest School and developing professional standards. People also generally accept the criteria for the scheme (they are based on the 6 Forest School principles after all). Despite this, we are detecting a strong sense of reservation about the scheme, particularly the ‘Introductory Forest School Provider’ option. Only one applicant has been recognised as an ‘Introductory Forest School provider’. This is despite the fact that the vast majority of FSA members probably fall into this category.

Members seem to be interpreting the term ‘Introductory Forest School Provider’ to be a reflection of the quality of their provision rather than as description of the services that they provide. It does not seem to be understood that this option is only different to the ‘Forest School Provider’ option because of the duration of the programmes offered. All else is the same. By definition short term programmes are not Forest School yet we feel sure that there are many excellent providers out there offering ‘Introductory Forest School’ programmes.

We wonder whether this is a marketing problem that needs to be addressed? We added the ‘Introductory Forest School provider’ option because members expressed concern that short term programmes could not otherwise be recognised by the FSA. Now that it has been included, people are not applying for this option despite the fact that they generally agree with the criteria for it.

We would be very grateful for your thoughts about how to make the short term programme option more appealing to members. Please comment below or feedback through your local group where appropriate. We will be sending a questionnaire to all members about this scheme in the new year.

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