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A total of 42 schools and organisations from across the West Midlands region have been awarded their share of cash in the Forestry Commission’s ‘Forest Schools’ challenge.
The panel of judges from the Forestry Commission was seeking applicants who could demonstrate their ability and commitment to set up and run a successful Forest School.
The judging panel included Bob Evans, Delivery & Outreach Manager for the Forestry Commission in the West Midlands Region; Susannah Podmore, Forest Education Initiative Co-ordinator for the Forestry Commission in England; Carol Travers, Forest Enterprise Wales Education Team Leader; and Mary Burton from West Midlands Sustainable schools.
The applicants from around the region went head to head for the chance to secure a share of £88,000 worth of grant as part of the Forestry Commission initiative, which aims to boost Forest Schools in the West Midlands.
The successful bidders impressed the judges with their top teaching credentials, focus on wide public benefits, safety and ongoing staff training.
The winners are:
Wollescote Primary School - £2,400
Elmley Castle First School - £1,600
Abberley Playgroup - £1,600
Colwall Primary School - £1,990
Northleigh Primary School - £1,170
Malvern Wells Primary School - £1,820
Callow End Primary School - £1,280
Broadway & Towerhill Playgroup - £2,000
Top Barn Training, Whotbourne - £2,000
Burlish Park Primary School - £1,600
Manor Park Primary School - £4,460
Alveston School - £4,800
Tamworth in Arden School – £1,900
Castle Wood School - £1,170
Salford Priors Primary School - £1,300
John Bamford Primary School, Rugeley, Staffordshire - £2,000
Radbrook Primary School - £4,650
Hadnall Primary School - £1,170
St Mary’s Primary School, Bucknell - £1,650
Gobowen Primary School - £1,200
Donnington Wood Infants School - £790
Hollinswood Infants School - £1,600
Bomere Heath Primary School - £700
Cradley Primary School - £2,000
Much Marcle Primary School - £2,610
Clifford Primary School - £1,050
Kington Primary School - £760
Lucton School - £1,870
Longtown Primary School - £1,980
Ewyas Harold Common - £1,860
Roberts Primary School, Dudley - £3,450
Greenfield Primary School, Stourbridge - £2,230
Yardley Primary School - £6,580
Washwood Heath Nursery School, Ward End - £7,250
Welsh House Farm Community School, Quinton – £6,180
St Mary's Primary School, Kingswinford – £1,600
Wolverhampton Environment Centre – £710
Mere Green Primary School, Four Oaks – £1,890
Sunbdridge Primary School, Sundridge – £1,160
A Forest School is a secure area of woodland, which acts as an outdoor classroom where people can explore, investigate and discover the natural environment. They offer children, young people and adults regular opportunities to learn social, physical and educational skills while encouraging an appreciation and understanding of the environment.
They also provide a valuable teaching tool for a wide range of curriculum subjects and are a good way to support and enrich the learning process over a wide range of subjects.
Schools, youth groups, environmental organisations and individuals were able to bid for Woodland Improvement Grants, with successful applicants being awarded up to 100 per cent funding support.
The age groups benefiting from the grants range from pre-school to secondary and included ‘challenged children’ and ‘special interest groups’.
Bill Heslegrave, Regional Director for the Forestry Commission in the West Midlands, said:
"Forest Schools have a wide range of proven benefits including improved knowledge and understanding of the environment; increased self-confidence and self-belief; and increased motivation and concentration. We want to help as many people as possible take advantage of the opportunities they offer."
"We received an impressive 42 requests for funding from wide-ranging organisations, from small, private nursery schools to countywide bids for pilot projects and taster days. From the bids we had we could have spent our budget three times over, which is fantastic and shows how keen people are to get back to nature and encourage younger generations to be excited by the prospect."
As part of the Woodland Improvement Grant, the Forestry Commission has offered support for the training of practitioners to instigate and lead their own Forest Schools.
The Forest School initiative originated in Scandinavia in the 1950s and has caught the imagination of teachers, foresters, parents and children since it was introduced to Britain in the mid-1990s.
A report by Forest Research and the new economics foundation (nef) shows that Forest Schools can play a critical role in child development.
The report said the benefits include improved physical and motor skills; improved language and communications skills; improved social skills, including team working; improved knowledge and understanding of the environment; increased self-confidence and self-belief; and increased motivation and concentration.
Further information about Forest Schools is available by visiting www.foresteducation.org and clicking on the link to Forest Schools. Alternatively, visit the Forestry Commission West Midlands Region’s own webpage at www.forestry.gov.uk/westmidlands
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. Images of children enjoying a Forest School are available by calling 01524-782086. Please credit Helen Howes
2. The Forestry Commission is the largest provider of countryside recreation in Britain with responsibility for over one million hectares (2.4 million acres) of forest, woodlands and open countryside. The West Midlands region covers the counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and the West Midlands conurbation.
3. Some Forest Schools are part of the Forest Education Initiative, which is a partnership of the Forestry Commission. A range of educational, environmental and industry partners are working together, to increase young people's understanding and appreciation of the environmental, social and economic benefits and potential of trees, woods and forests and of the links between trees and everyday forest products. For further information, visit www.foresteducation.org
4. 'A Marvellous Opportunity for Children to Learn: a participatory evaluation of Forest School in England and Wales', by Liz O’Brien of Forest Research and Richard Murray of the new economics foundation (nef), was published in February and can be downloaded free as a PDF from the Publications area of Forest Research's website, www.forestresearch.gov.uk
5. Forest Research is the agency of the Forestry Commission that conducts world-class scientific research and technical development relevant to forestry for internal and external clients. For further information, visit www.forestresearch.gov.uk
Liz O’Brien is part of the Social and Economic Research Group, which aims to develop a greater understanding of the ways in which woodlands and trees benefit society. For further information visit www.forestresearch.gov.uk/peopleandtrees
6. The new economics foundation (nef) is an independent "think-and-do" tank that inspires and demonstrates real economic well-being. It aims to improve quality of life by promoting innovative solutions that challenge mainstream thinking on economic, environmental and social issues. nef believes in economics as if people and the planet mattered. For further information, visit www.neweconomics.org
For further information please contact Nick Smith or Wendy Edgerton on 01584-877544 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively call the Forestry Commission in Worcester on 01905 532200.