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; Vicki Wood – Accredited Practitioner 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.
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