Forest skills set pupils up for life

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Six formers from Pen Y Bryn Special Secondary School in Swansea celebrated the end of a two-year Forest Skills project with a party to acknowledge how hard each of the students had worked.

The pupils learned forest and life skills by taking part in outdoor, woodland-based experiences every Tuesday during the school year at Afan Forest Park in the Afan Valley, just outside Port Talbot, between September 2010 and July 2012.

Amy Phillips, from the Forestry Commission Wales Woodlands for Learning team, joined the sixth formers, who have a variety of special educational needs, for an end of project party at the school.

Amy said, “The aim of the project was to give pupils experiences that will help them in real life, such as planning for a day out in the countryside, preparing and cooking a basic meal over a fire and learning to enhance their lives through enjoyment of the natural landscape.”

Several companies aided the project including Go Outdoors who donated 15 sets of waterproof clothing, Corus who donated rucksacks and NDA Packaging who donated water bottles for the group.

During the project, the youngsters learned a range of skills including how to use tools such as loppers, bow saws and secateurs for coppicing hazel, which was used to make items such as decorative picture frames and to build temporary shelters in the woodland.

Finding out how to build and light a campfire allowed the pupils to experiment with their cooking skills to make a basic meal on the campfire.

James Williams, Community Co-ordinator for Ysgol Pen Y Bryn, said, “The Forest Skills course has been a massive benefit to our pupils. It has taught them outdoor skills, how to work as a team and what role Forestry Commission Wales has.

"The pupils loved their experiences and always looked forward to Tuesdays. Amy was able to work to the many different abilities of the pupils, and provided them with some fantastic experiences.”

Pupils also had fun with a range of activities including walking trails around the park to increase their fitness and observing local wildlife and the changing woodland environment.

A variety of presentations were also given to the young people from wildlife rangers, forest park countryside rangers, mountain bike leaders and the café manager at the forest park to give insight into their jobs.

Now that the project has ended the pupils are moving on to new colleges all over the country, but will take their new forest skills with them.

Caption: Students from Pen Y Bryn Special Secondary School relax around the fire circle at Afan Forest Park.


A total of 14.3% 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.

More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on

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