What is a Forest School?

The development of Forest School began in Britain in the 1990s

It is based on a Scandinavian idea that considers children’s contact with nature to be extremely important from an early age. A study trip from Somerset to Denmark in 1995 decided that the approach was appropriate for use in Britain.

Since then Forest School has spread to many areas as educationalists have witnessed the impact that it can have on children.



  • The setting is rigorously checked before every session.
  • Clear boundaries are established for the children to stay within.

Learning can be linked to the National Curriculum

  • By incorporating innovative approaches to learning (such as undertaking small and easily achievable tasks) children are encouraged to develop their curiosity and motivation to learn. This is particularly important for those who find it difficult to assimilate knowledge in a strictly classroom situation.


    • The freedom to explore using multiple senses is fundamental for encouraging creative, diverse and imaginative play.
    • The focus is on the “whole child” (not just their academic ability).

Regular contact

  • Regular contact for the children over a period of time (e.g. all year round, in all weathers).
  • Regular can mean anything from fortnightly during a school term to one morning, afternoon or day every week for twelve months or more.

Adult supervision

  • A high adult to pupil ratio that allows for children to undertake tasks and play activities that challenge them but do not put them at undue risk of harm.
  • It also allows practitioners quickly to get to know the individual learning styles, abilities and characteristics of the children in their charge.


  • NIFSA has developed its own Forest School qualifications specially adapted for Northern Ireland.