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A guide to the group leader’s responsibilities

If you are leading a group visit to the forest, you are responsible for

  • Behaviour of the members of your group
  • First aid and medical conditions within your group
  • Ensuring that all members of the group (including grown ups) are dressed appropriately for the weather and for the forest environment

Please be aware of Forestry Commission safety management processes

  • Visitor sites, waymarked trails, play areas and toilets are checked regularly by local Forestry Commission staff - issues and problems are highlighted and acted upon in appropriate timescales
  • Smaller paths are not checked regularly, but when issues are noticed or brought to our attention, they are acted upon (e.g. a fallen tree or dangerous branch)
  • Forest operations (felling etc) are clearly marked with signs which warn visitors not to enter areas where machinery is working
  • Hazards are made inaccessible, usually being marked with warning tape (e.g. a piece of faulty play equipment awaiting repair)
  • Sites may be closed if deemed unsafe due to weather conditions (e.g. ice and snow) – this will be indicated at the site entrance and updates provided on the website

Things you should consider before your visit

  • Do you have permission / consent from parents and guardians of the members of your group?
  • Do you know about the medical and other special needs of the members of your group? Do you have all the necessary inhalers and other medication?
  • Have you been to the site before, for a pre-visit (see pre-visit advice below)?
  • Are you bringing enough adult helpers, not just to satisfy the needs of your education authority or organisation, but also to ensure that the children receive enough help and attention with their tasks and activities?
  • Does your school or organisation have appropriate insurance for the visit?
  • Does your coach driver know how to get to the site? Have you or the driver taken any planned road closures into consideration?
  • Have you looked at the Forestry Commission’s downloadable resources including the Forest Cycle presentation which could be shown to the group before the visit?
  • Have you written your risk assessments for the journey, site and activities? These should include details of what you will do in case of emergency (see the Forestry Commission’s risk assessment download for advice).

On a pre-visit, you should check out

  • Where are the toilets
  • Where are you going to park? Is there a charge for parking?
  • Have you told the Forestry Commission about your planned visit? If not, please contact your local learning team.
  • What activities are you going to do?
  • What resources will you need to bring with you?
  • What route are you going to follow through the woods? Have you checked that it is accessible for all the members of your group?
  • What will you do if it rains or is really cold? Is there any shelter, or will the bus stay on site?
  • What are you going to do if a group member becomes ill or is hurt? Where is the nearest hospital / first aid facility?
  • Is there a mobile phone signal on site? If not, is there a payphone?
  • What are the potential hazards for the journey, the site and the activities? You’ll need to put these into your risk assessments.
  • Where are you going to have lunch / snacks? 

Appropriate clothing for children and adults on a visit to the forest

  • Long trousers (for warmth in winter and for protection from brambles and nettles in summer)
  • Closed shoes or boots (not sandals – they don’t protect your feet)
  • Wellies are good for wet weather, but remember that small feet get very cold in wellies, so recommend that everyone wears extra socks
  • A warm jumper (it can be cool under the trees even on a sunny day)
  • A waterproof coat with a hood
  • Hat, gloves and a scarf for the winter months

Things you might want to bring with you

  • Sun cream and insect repellent in the summer
  • Spare hats (woolly hats or sun hats depending on the time of year)
  • First aid kit
  • Camera
  • Equipment needed for the activities
  • Collecting bags
  • Packed lunches and drinks (including flasks of hot drinks)
  • Gardening gloves, if you are planning on picking up anything prickly
  • Wet wipes
  • Clean water for cuts and scrapes
  • Emergency contact details for all members of the group (in case you are going to be late back)
Last updated: 8th December 2017

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.