NEWS - One of five in the country!
Julie Grainger, a Forest School Trainer at FSC Bishops Wood, has been endorsed as a Forest School Trainer under the new Quality Assurance Scheme introduced by the Forest School Association (FSA). The FSA is the professional body and UK wide voice for Forest School, promoting best practice, cohesion and 'quality Forest School for All'.
Julie has gained the endorsement by demonstrating that she meets the criteria associated with providing high quality training experiences. She is currently one of only 5 trainers nationally who have been awarded this status.
Bishops Wood Centre has been involved with Forest School for 18 years. Previously the centre was part of Worcestershire County Council and was one of the first centres/local authorities in the UK, outside Bridgewater College, where Forest School was delivered and developed throughout the county. The centre has also supported the development of Forest School in a number of authorities in the West Midlands, namely Dudley and Sandwell, and elsewhere. We therefore have a long proven track record in delivering and supporting Forest School in a variety of settings – from early years through to secondary schools (in particular students with special needs). The key deliverers of the training have been involved with Forest School for many years (see staff stories).
Bishops Wood Centre is a centre of excellence for training, with the sustainable building and it’s woodland ‘feel’ providing an inspiring and relaxing base to work from. Having said this, most of the training takes place in the outdoors and we have a whole variety of woodlands that demonstrate how Forest School can be developed. These range from a newly established woodland, showing the possibilities for settings that may have few or even no trees, through to mature established chestnut and hazel coppice with oak standards. Trees are what we are about – even the name comes from an old oak tree in the vicinity of the centre, now long since gone, under which it is said that St Augustine (the first archbishop of Canterbury) met some of the Celtic bishops and failed to convert them to his Christianity.
We also have numerous growing areas and even a ‘Danish’ garden to show how a small area can become an inspiring learning place.
Our attention to sustainability supports the Forest School philosophy of caring and connecting with the natural world and the ecological processes that support life, including us. We are a partnership with the National Grid who have an ambitious sustainability action plan for all their sites. Bishops Wood is seen as an important part of this plan – developing and managing habitats such as wild flower meadows, various types of woodland with their associated structures such as ‘rides’. This is in order to maintain and improve the biodiversity value of the habitats associated with the woodland. At the same time we involve learners, including Forest School trainee leaders, in sustainable management and woodland resource use – from planting, coppicing and woodcraft through to honey production, demonstrating what is possible for visitors to achieve in their own settings – combining education with sustainable woodland management.
"I have never before come across an educational organisation which understands how child led learning applies to adults as well, with amazing results. You have lit a warm flame inside me, thankyou, thankyou, thankyou."
The training team; Julie Grainger, Jon Cree and Vicki Wood – all Accredited Practitioners in Outdoor Learning, are involved with Forest School and training at Bishops Wood – including the full Forest School qualification and the short courses that enable practitioners to further develop their skills and understandings of Forest School practise.
Julie Grainger started her time at Bishops Wood in 2004 as a Forest School leader. Previously she was a science teacher/co-ordinator in a middle school and had been involved with environmental education in Africa. Julie’s experience of working with primary and early years settings attending Forest School at Bishops Wood, and on school grounds, in conjunction with some of the special schools visiting the centre, has proved invaluable in the training programmes. She has been involved with the Forest School training since it was started at the centre in 2007 and has delivered to a variety of groups across the West Midlands. Her enthusiasm for learner centred pedagogy along with her practical skills and ecological knowledge give depth and meaning to her training.
Jon Cree has worked at the centre since Forest School was started in 1999. He has a career that started in nature conservation where he ended up assisting managing a national nature reserve of ash woodlands and limestone grasslands in the peak district and then shifted to education, working in and with schools. Jon found a passion for engaging children and young people in the natural world – particularly through story and woodcraft. He has worked in education and training now for almost 35 years and his initial work in youthwork, and with teenagers that are challenged, often by our education system, meant Forest School was a natural progression for him when he came to Bishops Wood. He has also worked with many primary and early years groups. Jon is the training co-ordinator for the centre and been running workshops for educators for 25 years. He helped found the Forest School Association and is on the board of directors.
Vicki Wood is an experienced environmental educator with a PGCE in FE. Starting her career in the conservation sector working for BTCV and then the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, educating and inspiring people of all ages and abilities in ecology and the natural environment. Vicki then moved into mainstream education working for Dudley MBC where she established forest schools and outdoor education within a cluster of schools. Since starting work at Bishops Wood in 2012 she has had a number of roles. As part of the training team she brings a wealth of experience in establishing and regularly running forest school as well as mentoring many trainees in their early days and developing as a freelance practitioner. More recently Vicki has become the schools team coordinator at Bishops Wood which provides a great link to teaching staff and current trends and practise in schools