Pupils go Bacc to nature on woodland visits

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Textbook theory was brought to life for Welsh Baccalaureate students when they visited a local woodland to learn about the many benefits of trees.

About 180 pupils from Mountain Ash Comprehensive School spent a day at the Forestry Commission Wales centre at Garwnant, near Merthyr Tydfil, as part of a pilot scheme to inject real-life meaning to their lessons.

The year 10 students (aged 14 and 15), who are studying for their Intermediate level qualification, visited the forest centre in groups of 30 to carry out a series of activities led by Forestry Commission Wales education officer Ross Evans.

The Welsh Baccalaureate – known as the Welsh Bacc – is a qualification for 14 to 19-year-old students in Wales which combines personal development skills with qualifications like A levels, NVQs and GCSEs to make one wider award that is valued by employers and universities.

During their visits, the students learned about woodland ecosystems, how trees can help to tackle climate change and how Forestry Commission Wales manages the Welsh Government’s woodlands.

They engaged in problem-solving activities such as navigating their way around the woodland in teams, performing tasks at specific points like calculating the carbon content in a tree, identifying tree species and woodland creatures.

They also attended a workshop where they discussed forest management and planning issues and the importance of planting more diverse species of trees to make our woodlands more resilient to the effects of climate change.

Ross also gave the students a practical demonstration on making charcoal and discussed how woodlands had been used to meet a range of different needs through the ages.

He said, “This was the first time we’ve contributed in this way to the Welsh Baccalaureate curriculum, which gives broader experiences than traditional learning programmes.

“Woodlands provide a stimulating outdoor learning environment and the activities allowed them to work with others and offer real solutions to some of the challenges of woodland management that we deal with every day.”

The advanced Welsh Baccalaureate contains key skills core elements which count for 120 UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Services) tariff points – equivalent to an A grade at GCE A level.

The key skills are communication, application of number, IT, improving own learning and performance, working with others and problem solving. These are supplemented by various optional elements.

The Welsh Baccalaureate can be studied in English or Welsh, or a combination of the two languages.

Rebecca Thomas, science teacher and Welsh Baccalaureate co-ordinator at Mountain Ash Comprehensive School, said, “The activity days gave pupils the opportunity to develop invaluable skills while learning about sustainability in a meaningful environment.

“Pupils were engaged and enthusiastic and able to complete areas of the Welsh Baccalaureate in a fun and interesting way.”

Caption: Education officer Ross Evans brings lessons to life for a group of Welsh Bacc students.


A total of 14.3 per cent of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Government.

Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.

The Woodlands for Learning team delivers woodland-based learning experiences throughout Wales, supports the development and delivery of Forest School and facilitates the Forest Education Initiative on behalf of its partners.

For more information about the delivery of sessions to support Welsh Baccalaureate programmes, contact Woodlands for Learning Team Leader, Sue Williams, on 0300 068 0109, mobile 07789 923830, email

More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on

Visit News at FCWales for news, images, press office contact details and links to case studies.

Press office contact: Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email