Special needs school pupils learn forest skills

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A group of special needs pupils are learning new skills in Afan Forest Park as they work towards a nationally-recognised qualification.

The sixth form pupils, from Pen-y-Bryn Special Secondary School in Morriston, Swansea, are tackling a variety of outdoor challenges under the watchful eye of Forestry Commission Wales’s Amy Phillips.

Amy, an education officer with the Woodlands for Learning team, is helping three groups of pupils through a course called Forest Skills, which will equip the pupils with skills to help them lead more fulfilling lives.

The course will also lead to a qualification recognised by the National Open College Network, which supports learning and widens opportunity for young people and adults by offering high quality, flexible credit-based courses and qualifications.

Amy is working with the groups each Tuesday during term until July 2011, when they will learn skills such as building and lighting a campfire and cooking a basic meal on it.

They will also learn how to put up tents and build temporary shelters in the woodland, use maps to navigate and use tools such as loppers, bow saws and secateurs for coppicing hazel.

Amy said, “The aim of the project is to give the 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 and also experiences that will enhance their lives through enjoyment of the natural landscape.”

As well as developing practical skills, the pupils will increase their fitness and gain experience of walking on uneven ground by walking some of the trails around Afan Forest Park.

They will also experience local wildlife and the changing woodland environment, and get an insight to what makes the park “tick” by learning about the jobs of the FC Wales wildlife rangers, forest park countryside rangers, mountain bike leaders and the forest park café manager.

James Williams, community co-ordinator at Ysgol Pen-y-Bryn, said, “The Forest Skills course will be a massive benefit to our pupils. It will teach them outdoor skills, how to work as a team and the role of Forestry Commission Wales.

“The pupils can’t wait for Tuesdays. Amy is able to work to the many different abilities of the pupils, and has provided them with some fantastic experiences.”

After each session, the pupils will post an update for the news section of the school website.

A number of local companies are supporting the school by providing equipment for the pupils.

Go Outdoors donated 15 sets of waterproof clothing, Corus donated day rucksacks to give the pupils the independence of carrying their own clothing and equipment, and NDA Packaging Swansea donated water bottles.

Olympus has also donated a waterproof camera for the course.


The Forestry Commission Wales 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 on the team’s activities, visit

For more information on Pen-y-Bryn Special Secondary School, visit its website at

The National Open College Network (NOCN) supports learning and widens opportunity by recognising achievement through high quality, flexible credit-based courses and qualifications. It is accredited by the regulatory authorities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Media enquiries to Forestry Commission Wales press officer Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email