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Forest School in England and Wales and its impact on young children

Children on a fungal foray with a rangerSummary

Forest school is a unique educational experience using the outdoor environment of the forest as a classroom. Forest Schools are becoming widespread in England and Wales.

An evaluation of two Forest School projects by the New Economics Foundation highlighted how they can increase young people’s self-confidence and self-esteem. Forest School provides opportunities for learning particularly for those who do not do as well in the school classroom.

The New Economics Foundation also produced a self -appraisal methodology so that Forest School leaders and teachers can evaluate other Forest Schools.

Summary of research, findings and recommendations (PDF-160K)

Research objectives

  • Produce a list of activities undertaken in Forest School and their immediate outputs
  • Explore the possible outcomes of the activities and establish six propositions about what Forest School can achieve
  • Develop a hypothesis for how activities lead to those outcomes
  • Collect evidence to demonstrate that changes have taken place
  • Develop an easy to use Self-Appraisal Toolkit for these and other Forest School projects to carry out similar evaluations.

Key findings

The evaluation outlines propositions of how Forest School makes a difference:

  • Increases self esteem and self confidence
  • Improves people’s ability to work together
  • Counters a lack of motivation and negative attitude
  • Encourages an improved understanding of the outdoors
  • Increases the skills and knowledge of those who take part.

See also: O'Brien, L and Murray, R. (2007). Forest School and its impacts on young children: case studies in Britain. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 6: 249-265.

Further evaluation

The Forest Research Social and Economic Research Group has carried out an evaluation of the impacts of Forest School on young children.

Funders and partners

Forestry Commission logo
The Forestry Commission funded this piece of work under the Social Research for Forestry in Sustainable Society programme.

New Economics Foundation logo
The research was undertaken by the New Economics Foundation and managed by Forest Research.

Forestry Commission Policy

The Forestry Commission supports the Forest Education Initiative in its work with Forest School. Through this process and through other education initiatives the Forestry Commission wants to encourage children and young people to better understand the importance of woodlands and use them as a learning environment.


This research has been completed:


Liz O'Brien