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Forest School qualifications

Forest School practitioners must be qualified to deliver Forest School opportunities for Early Years, Primary Schools and more. Progressive levels of qualification enable the practitioner to undertake roles with increasing levels of responsibility for setting up, planning and delivery of regular sessions.

This page describes the different levels, responsibilities and entry requirements.
See Forest School training for info about choosing a trainer.

To deliver a Forest School programme at least one Level 3 Forest School Leader must be present.

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There are different levels of Forest School training available, equipping you to carry out different roles.

The qualifications (or Levels) are described below, in general terms – different training providers may have different criteria. Although specific details may be different , overall Forest School qualifications will be along these lines.

Level 1: introduction to Forest School

Level 1 entitles you to help out at a Forest School setting.

Level 1 is equivalent to D-G grades at GCSE and generally requires a very high percentage of contact time with the learner. The learning outcomes in this unit look at the Forest School approach to learning, the impact of Forest School on the site, and risks and hazards associated with Forest School.

Student entry criteria for Level 1

  • Have a current CRB disclosure (or Disclosure Scotland Certificate) after 4 sessions
  • Aged 16 and over.

Level 2: Forest School Assistant

Level 2 qualifies you to become a Forest School Assistant, taking a proactive role in helping the Forest School Leader/Practitioner plan and deliver the Forest School programme and support the learners.

Level 2 is equivalent to A*-C grades at GCSE and generally requires at least 60% contact time. It consists of two units both worth 3 credits and requiring 30 notional learning hours.

Student Entry criteria for Level 2

  • Have a relevant qualification equivalent to a level 1, or some experience of working with children/young people
  • Have a current CRB disclosure (or Disclosure Scotland Certificate)
  • Aged 18 and over.

Non-essential but recommended
Have or be in the process of acquiring a current valid First Aid certificate (minimum 2-day ITC or equivalent).

Level 3: Forest School Leader / Practitioner

Level 3 equips you to design and run a Forest School safely and effectively. It is aimed at people who wish to set up a Forest School with children, young people or adults.

Level 3 is equivalent to A Level and can be delivered with less than 50% contact time. The award comprises 3 units and is worth 18 credits amounting to 60 notional learning hours.

Level 3 units are designed to be delivered together as three ‘modules’ to qualify the learner to become a Forest School Practitioner, able to set up and run a Forest School programme.

Student entry criteria for level 3

  • Have considerable experience of working with young people
  • Age 21 years or over
  • Have a level 3 or above qualification (NNEB, Teacher, Play worker or Youth worker) to level 3 or equivalent OR level 2 with a portfolio of at least 2 years experience of working with children/young people in a leadership capacity
  • Have a current CRB disclosure (or Disclosure Scotland Certificate)
  • Have or be in the process of acquiring a current valid First Aid certificate (minimum 2-day ITC or equivalent), or tailored two-day
  • First Aid in the Outdoors course delivered and certified by a provider registered with HSE
  • Appropriate insurance cover and permissions for delivering a Forest School programme with your client group.

In order to qualify you will have to deliver 6 practice sessions.

Level 4: Forest School / Outdoor Learning Trainer

Level 4 enables you to build specific skills and experience in all aspects of running Accredited FS and OL training.

A few organisations (including Cambium Sustainable) offer a qualification that enables a practitioner to lead Forest School and Outdoor Learning training.

Forest School teams

Different Forest Schools use different configurations of leaders to run their sessions, eg, two leaders or one leader and one or more level 2 assistants. Smaller groups running onsite may just have one level 3 leader and a couple of parent or staff helpers. It is important that other staff involved with the programme participate in an introductory training session. They may go on to get a qualification.

In schools

Leaders do not necessarily need to be teachers, other staff can often schedule time for the preparation and delivery of Forest School more easily. To help the development of Forest School within a particular setting it is useful for all staff to experience an introductory session so they can understand and support the benefits reaching across the whole setting and curriculum. The Forest School leader works with the school or setting staff to continue themes looked at in the classroom into the woodland and vice versa.

You do NOT need a Forest School qualification to take your group on trips to the woods, this can be arranged through your setting’s normal visit procedures.

See also

Forest School trainers

The Forest School training providers listed below are ones that Muddy Faces has an active relationship with, sharing resources and information.

There are many more trainers available and we recommend you do your own research and checks as mentioned in our Forest School Training section.

To get your organisation listed here and join the Muddy Faces Trainers Discount Package click here.

Training Courses are listed on our Training & Events Calendar click here.

Read More about Forest School trainers
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