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01303 815665 / Registered Charity No. 307889 / Registered in England & Wales No. 419256

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The Caldecott School, Station Road, Smeeth, Ashford, Kent, TN25 6PW

Forest School

"Nurturing curiosity and the instinct to seek solutions are perhaps the most important contributions education can make."
Paul Berg. Founder of Willowbank Education

Forest School at Caldecott

The world’s first known Forest School was created by Ella Flautau in Denmark in 1952. The idea formed when her and the neighbours’ children began gathering daily in a nearby forest, an unofficial form of day care, which elicited great interest among other parents in the community. The parents formed a group and created an initiative to establish “walking kindergartens” out of the Waldorf-Steiner approach to education-child-led and play-based, with adults as facilitators not teachers.

Forest Schools started to pop up over Denmark through the 1950’s. Forest School was introduced in the UK in 1995 when a group of lecturers and childhood educators and nurses from Bridgewater College in Somerset, visited a Danish Forest School.

“Children can’t bounce off the walls if we remove the walls”, Erin Kelly -Author and Journalist

How does this help children with SEN?

Extensive research has proven that Forest School builds confidence and independence and improves mental health. It provides opportunities for imagination and exploration, and it promotes working collaboratively. Through nature, it focuses on maximising the emotional, social and developmental benefits of learning. Forest School is designed to work with young people in the outdoors over a period of time, introducing responsible risk-taking and setting the young people up to achieve.

The benefits to SEN pupils who struggle with a conventional school environment:


How does this help children with SEN?

How we run Forest School at Caldecott

Caldecott introduced Forest School in 2019, quickly training up 7 level 3 Forest School Leaders to run the sessions. Pupils in both Primary and Secondary receive Forest School each week as part of their curriculum, at our off-site provision in Bilsington.

There we are very fortunate to have access to a private woodland just 10 minutes drive away. This is some 500 acres of ancient woodland and has everything that a Forest School could ask for, a wide variety of flora and fauna and some amazing geography with streams, hills and valleys to explore and learn in. If we can’t access Bilsington – there are just 2 reasons why we wouldn’t – strong winds (over 40mph), and thunderstorms – we have on-site provisions and cabins where we can practice skills and techniques in a safe environment.

“A child needs the same things as a tree – Earth, Water Sun and Air” annon.

Ethos of Forest School

At Caldecott we follow the original ethos of Forest School where all activities are child-initiated, and the Forest School Leaders and adult helpers are facilitators. We have abundant resources and have linked our Forest School objectives closely to the Autism Education Trust (AET), and Preparation For Adulthood/Employment (PFA/E) objectives, so the students are learning all the time through their engagement and enjoyment of nature. We cover an amazing range of activities from den building and whitling, to nature walks or just exploring. The list is almost endless and limited only by the children’s imagination. Covid permitting, we welcome pre-arranged visits by parents and carers to witness first-hand the amazing facilities we have.

Ethos of Forest School

Forest School is an integral part of the curriculum at Caldecott and compliments a therapeutic approach to education. The young people, without exception, enjoy the sessions and a questionnaire sent to parents and pupils showed:

  • 100% looked forward to FS days
  • 80% preferred being outside opposed to the classroom
  • 100% of parents felt their child’s confidence and self-esteem had risen as a result
  • 90% of pupils said that they concentrate more as there are firm rules around equipment use and safety

Additional comments from pupils include:
“I know how to light a fire and how to put it out safely”
“This is the best school in the world, I get to play in the woods with my friends”

John Muir Award

For our older pupils in Secondary School, we are able to offer the John Muir Award which is a nationally recognised achievement/qualification similar in structure to the Duke of Edinburgh Award, and has Bronze, Silver and Gold levels that require increasing input levels of duration and involvement. Caldecott School is also a member of the John Muir Trust –

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than one seeks” – John Muir (1838 – 1914)

“Give the pupils something to do not something to learn, if the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking then learning naturally takes place” – John Dewey – American Philosopher, (1859 – 1952)