St Mary's C.E. Primary School, Rawtenstall - Forest School Sessions

The Challenge

Newground were contacted by Mr Holden, the head teacher at St Mary’s primary because the school had a considerable outdoor area which had not been used for a number of years.  Mr Holden was very keen for the children to make best use of this space and access it regularly.

The space was a small but diverse woodland which had been planted with a woodland trust grant thirty years ago.

The area had a stream and wetland running through it, as well as mature trees.   The school wanted to make sure their children were safe when using the area.

Newground’s approach and solution

Newground GCS were able to put in steps up a step slop to make the entrance to the site safe and readily accessible.  They also put up a fence with a gateway, plus a dipping platform to make the pond and stream area safely accessible by groups.  This area is now perfect for sampling activities with pupils who have discovered a diverse and healthy range of fresh water minibeast.

To limit environmental damage a pathway was also created, complete with willow tunnel so groups could easily access and get around the woodland area.

A large seating area complete with fire pit was introduced to give whole class groups a place gather together in the woodland for briefings, reflection, sharing of experiences or exciting activities such as outdoor cooking.

As the woodland had not been managed for many years, coppicing was also carried out to allow the tree’s space to grow healthily.  The canopy of the woodland was raised in order to make all areas of the woodland accessible and promote vertical growth in the trees.  Under planting was carried out with over 100 trees of more than 15 species to introduce more ground layer growth within the woodland and increase biodiversity.

As a result of these developments Newground Education staff have been able to run outdoor holiday activity days, outdoor education sessions for all year groups and a year long programme of Forest School workshops for parents and new pupils to attend together.   These have all been well received by the school who now have a wonderful woodland in their school grounds which is safely accessible all year round.

Quotes from pupils at St Mary’s on the Outdoor Education Sessions:

“We loved pond dipping.”

“Loved seeing water scorpions.”

“Found lots of different species”

“Lots of new animals I’d never seen before”

Quotes from parents who took part in parent and child Forest School Sessions:

“They (Forest School Sessions) were unique and amazing, never done anything like that before, my daughter loved them.”

“Parents were included in all activities, a very welcoming feel to sessions”

“Dan and other staff were incredible, just right for this age group”

“I would never have thought of teaching my two year old to use a saw but after we did the sessions she helped me saw branches in the summer.  It was a really positive thing for both of us to do and we loved all the sessions”

“I think this kind of pre-school experience should be available to all children.  My child got loads of new experiences from the sessions – den building, toasting marshmallows!  We really enjoyed it a lot.  My child’s nursery used the sessions too and loved them, they said the kids really got stuck into this kind of outdoor learning.”


Flower Making Leaves