Handbook For Staff

Rules of Forest School

  • We make sure we look after our Forest School.
  • We do not pick anything growing.
  • We do not put anything in your mouths – including fingers.
  • We stay inside the boundary rope – we don’t go over or under it.

Respect For The Woods We Teach In

THE COUNTRYSIDE CODE also known as the (Countryside and Rights of Way act 2000) this is a 170-page document that covers the rights of people to enter land and the rights of the landowners to prevent entry.

The following parts of the act are the parts relevant to Forest school practices and how we treat our site.

  • Be safe, plan ahead and follow any signs.
  • Protect plants and animals and take all litter home.
  • Keep dogs under close control.
  • Consider other people.
  • Respect the countryside.
  • Be courteous.
  • Guard against fire. Don’t drop matches or cigarette ends.
  • Fasten all gates – Leave gates as you found them but if in doubt shut them.
  • Keep dogs under control on a lead especially around livestock.
  • Avoid damaging fences, hedges and walls – if we have to climb a gate do so one at a time, near the hinge.
  • Leave no litter take all rubbish with you.
  • Safeguard water supplies.
  • Protect wildlife, plants and trees.


Sessional Procedures

  • Group will be met at entrance to the Woodland by the Forest School Leader and Assistant.
  • The Forest School Leader will ensure Medical and Emergency Contact information is up to date.
  • Groups led into Woodland to site.
  • Group assemble at Base Camp.
  • Recap of rules.
  • Introduction to session.
  • Children explore and learn.
  • Snack.
  • Group game.
  • Leave Woodland.
  • Children handed back to grown ups at entrance to site.

When working with younger groups i.e. nursery or reception the forest school cafe could be moved to the middle of the session. This would enable to leader to check the whole group together then an exploratory session could be run either side of the café.

It would be the aim to run all sessions on the same format for the purpose of continuity for changing assistants.

Designated person Responsibility for Forest School

The responsibilities of each adult in attendance are as follows:


  • Child Protection Officer.
  • Ensuring possession of up to date Medical and Emergency contact details for every child and adult in attendance.
  • Briefing all adults in their role.
  • Leading group into woodland and during session.
  • Modeling Forest School ethos and attitude.
  • Taking children and adults through Forest School rules.
  • Safety sweep.
  • Setting up site with all necessary equipment.
  • Packing up and Accounting for equipment.
  • Supervising and modeling use of tools.


  • Reporting Child Protection concerns to Leader.
  • Reporting Health and Safety concerns to Leader.
  • Following group into Woodland.
  • Accompanying children outside of boundary if they need the toilet.
  • Modeling Forest School ethos and attitude.
  • Supporting children where necessary during session.
  • Responsibility for group when Leader is using tools with groups.
  • Assisting children during snack time.
  • Leading group if there is an emergency including a trip to accompany a child to Hospital leaving the leader with the remaining group.
  • Take down boundary rope during group game and at the end of a session.


  • Following the lead of the Leader and the Assistant.
  • Following Forest School Rules.
  • Reporting Child Protection concerns to Leader.
  • Reporting Health and Safety concerns to Leader.

In the case of children with severe SEN and specific behavior plans the familiar school adult will enforce these:

  • Only taking their own children to the toilet.
  • Waiting at the entry point to Woodland in case of an emergency – see EMERGENCY/INCIDENT PROCEDURES.

Legislation and Health and Safety


  • Safety Sweep and Rules.
  • The Forest Leader will ensure the site is safe by completing a safety sweep and documenting the results on the safety sweep forms at the beginning of each session. This will be available in the Health and Safety Folder.

All children and adults will be briefed in Forest School Rules at the beginning of each session.


All children and adults will be provided with a clothing list. The site has holly bushes and brambles so all members of the Forest School (including volunteers and leaders) must be in long trousers and long sleeved tops.

Sturdy shoes

It is the responsibility of the Forest School leader to communicate this to all members of the Forest School. In conjunction with the (codes of conduct) document. If a child attends and is inappropriately clothed for the weather conditions or the site to such an extent that it poses a risk to the child the leader has the responsibility to refuse to take the child for the session.

Public Access

The site is in a public woodland so is used by the public. This in itself poses a health and safety risk. The area is to be roped off and a sign will be placed where the site borders closest to the path that states, “Forest School Site, Please do not disturb.” The Forest School site is visible in it’s entirety from all points so the Forest School leader will be able to monitor and control public access.

In the case where the public does enter the site the Forest School Leader will approach them to explain that Forest School is in session with the permission of the landowner or relevant authority and provide contact details to the person providing permission.

Dogs and Horses

Due to public use of the land dogs and horses and the resulting feces are also a hazard. During the safety sweep the Forest School leader will remove any feces from the site. The children will be taught the x-factor in response to dogs and horses. As the horses are being ridden on the path they

will not be a risk while on site but the Forest School leader will need to remain alert when traveling to and from the site.

Environmental Considerations

In the case of severe weather, including subzero temperatures, thunder and lightening storms or high winds, Forest School will not be in session. It is the discretion of the Forest School leader as to whether the session will go ahead. In the event of a cancelled session the Forest School Leader must notify all Forest School students/parents.

Should the weather turn while at Forest School, the Forest School leader will safely lead children out of the woods and contact the school. Should it be necessary, the school will contact parents, the children can then be returned to the school.

Examples of activities:

Snail and slug races
Mud slides
Worm charming
Welly wander
Animal tracking
Pond dipping

Climbing trees
Using tools
Fire lighting
Animal homes
Blackberry painting
Magic carpets
Color all around us
Summer scents

Ice mobiles
Bird feeders

Mud faces
Dream catchers
Fungi hunt
Mini beasts ID
Leaf Identification and tree ID
Spider web weaving
5 point star (knots)


Children will be supported using recommended child to adult ratio’s

  • Age 2 – 3: 1 adult to 4 children.
  • Age 4 – 8: 1 adult to 6 children.
  • Age 9 – 12: 1 adult to 8 children.
  • Age 13 – 18: 1 adult to 10 children.


Disabled Access Policy

Wherever possible, disability will not prevent a child from participation in the Forest School program.

The Forest School Leader will assess any special arrangements necessary for a disabled child on a case-by-case basis and, provided that such arrangements can be made without causing undue disruption to the normal operation of the Forest School or significant additional cost, the disability will not prevent admission.

In determining what is reasonable the Forest School Leader will have regard to:

  • Financial resources available to the Forest School.
  • Costs of any particular alteration to the premises, staffing arrangements, or special equipment required.
  • Practicality of making reasonable adjustments.
  • Health & Safety requirements.
  • The best interests of the other children.

Police Checks CRB

All staff of Down in The Woods Ltd will have current DBS checks and the disclosure number of the certificate will be kept on file with a note of the expiry date.

Staff from schools will need to provide evidence of their DBS to Down in The Woods Ltd.
(See Codes of conduct document)

Parents will be welcome to attend Forest School sessions. However, they may not be left unsupervised at any time. It is the responsibility of the Forest School Leader to ensure that no additional adults are ever left unsupervised.


Only Down in The Woods Ltd staff, school staff or the parent of the child will be able to assist with toileting. Where an adult does accompany a child to the toilet they must be visible to other adults at all times. See – TOILETING CONSIDERATIONS.

Essential Equipment

  • Register with emergency numbers/contact numbers.
  • Medical and consent forms.
  • Mobile Phone.
  • Newspaper or fire lighting equipment.
  • Matches.
  • Wet wipes.
  • Protective gloves latex in first aid kit and leather for tool use- See first aid kit content’s.
  • First aid kit (contents list and log for use of contents).
  • Water container for hand washing Separate drinking water supply.
  • Emergency blanket.
  • Pamphlet on hypothermia and first aid.
  • Clean container for inhalers/medicines.
  • Emergency change of clothes of appropriate size.
  • Carry bag for dirty/wet clothing.
  • Travel potty.
  • Tarpaulin for overhead and smaller ones to sit on for inclement weather.

Travel Policy

On occasions we will operate in woodland area where the parent’s/carer’s are responsible for bringing and collecting the children from an accessible designated place near the site. Neither the Forest School leader nor anyone else on the Forest School team are allowed to travel singularly with any child in any personal vehicle.

Travel Plans


The Forest school leader will use the relevant risk assessment

To walk the children to and from the site.

At the start of the journey the children will be reminded of the rules, which are.

  • Stay on the pavement unless they are crossing the road.
  • When on the pavement they must stay on the side of the pavement furthest from the road.
  • Remind the children to move carefully and with respect for others in the group so as not to endanger themselves or others in the group.
  • When crossing the road the children must only step onto the road when they are told to do so by the leader and if there is an adult standing in the middle to stop the traffic.

When walking there will be sufficient staff to have:

One member of staff at the front of the group one in the middle and one at the rear. In the event that there is a larger group the number of staff in the group will be determined by the staffing ratios for the age group but there will always be one at the lead one at the rear and then other members of staff spread out along the group.

The children will be counted prior to leaving the school and during the journey the leader and assistants should count the children sporadically.

When walking the children need not hold hands however they should walk in pairs or singly depending on the width of the pavement.


It is the responsibility of the schoolteacher or forest School leader to ensure that the children are ready for the journey in plenty of time and that the children are not rushed on the journey. In the event that the children need to run they should not they will just have to be late.

Each Child will be responsible for carrying their own spare clothing and snack in a suitable bag.

If the group is to travel on public transport the forest school leader will have with them a note of travel policy and The relevant risk assessment for the mode of travel being used.

The group will follow the walking plan to and from the public transport.

If it is necessary to use a bus or train to transport the children the schoolteacher or Forest School leader will:

  • Arrange for the appropriate risk assessment to be made and have it in the travel pack.
  • Ring ahead to the buss or train company to inform them of the journey, number of children and number of staff and the route of the journey.

The adult at the front of the group will lead the children onto the train or buss and seat them. The middle member of staff will help the children onto the buss or train and then remain there until all the children and adults are on the train or buss. The last member of staff will check all the children are on board and only then get on.

  • All the children should be seated if possible with seat belts. The children that have to stand should have a hold of a seat or bar.
  • The Forest school leader will not get on until everyone else is on.
  • The Forest school leader will count all of the children before the buss or coach leaves.

Private Transport

If Private transport is to be used the forest school leader will have carried out the relevant risk assessment and have it in the forest school file.

A check of the car park or road surface has to be done prior to the children entering the coach.

All children must wear seat belts if available.

The forest school leader will then check the site for the children to get off. Once a safe disembarking point has been found the leader will wait at the bottom of the stairs ensuring the children get off safely and they will be led to a safe place away from the coach to wait with the adults.

The forest school leader will check the bus before entering the woods.

When loading the children onto and off a buss the buss will always be parked in such a way so that the children go from footpath to buss or visa versa. In the event of an emergency

Where the children have to alight onto the road a leader or assistant will stand on the road at the door.

Medical and Emergency Contact Details

The forest school leader is responsible for keeping a list of medical details for himself all assistants and any other adults travelling with the group. This is in addition to the up to date information for each of the students. These will all be together in the Health and Safety folder inside the main backpack.

In the case that the Leader does not hold this information when a child arrives for Forest School the grown up will be requested to complete a form before they are able to enter the woodland. Any additional adult wishing to attend Forest School with their child will need to complete this information before the group enter the woodland.

In the case of a school party attending forest School. The school will be responsible for collecting and passing on this information together with a parental consent form prior to the Child attending the initial session. Any children that attend the session without this information will be turned away.

Emergency and Incident Procedures During a Forest School Session

In the case of an emergency the Forest School Leader is the first aid attendant on site.

It is the responsibility of the Forest School Leader to administer first aid. It is the responsibility of the Forest School Assistant to remain in control of the other children, to contact emergency services and also contact the affected child’s emergency contact.

In the case of an emergency “Base camp!” will be called by the Forest School Assistant and all the remaining children will be assembled at base camp until it is safe to move them out of the woodland. If the Forest School Leader is required to remove the affected child from the woodland it is the assistant’s responsibility to lead the remaining children out of the Forest School site in an orderly fashion to the meeting point where each of the emergency contacts will be called and arrangements will be made to have the children collected.

In the case of the emergency services needing to be contacted it is the role of the Forest School Assistant to notify the Emergency services and instruct a parent volunteer to wait at

The entry point to the Forest School site in order to lead the paramedics to the site.

When contacting the emergency service the following information should be provided.

  • Details of the accident.
  • Patient details ETC age, name, DOB, blood group.
  • Postcode.
  • Map number and 6-figure reference.
  • The GPS coordinates will be needed.


In the event that a child need to go to Hospital the following procedure should be used:

  • Leader stays with the Child to comfort and monitor the child.
  • Assistants gather the other children and start calling parents for collection
  • Assistant takes the children to the pick up point and to wait for Medical staff.

In the event that the medical service arrives before the parents the assistant goes to the hospital with the child.

The leader stays with the remaining children and to meet the parent.

Ecological Impact of Forest School on the Site

The Forest School site must be managed carefully and according to the sustainable woodland management plan. The Forest School leader must observe the site and record any evidence of overuse so that the area can be managed differently or an alternate site can be chosen.
Whenever possible the site should be changed every year to leave the wood to regenerate.

Risk Assessment and Risk Management of the Forest School Site

A Risk Assessment for the Forest School site will be written termly. This will be the responsibility of the Forest School Leader.

Risk Assessment for individual tools can be found in the Health and Safety folder.

In addition to the Risk assessment the Forest School Leader will complete a Safety Sweep of the site before every session. Evidence of these can be found in the Health and Safety Folder.

Due to the public access to the site litter is a possibility. The Forest School leader will remove litter from the site during the safety sweep.

The site has holly bushes and brambles so all members of the Forest School (including volunteers and leaders) must be in long trousers and long sleeved tops with sturdy shoes. It is the responsibility of the Forest School leader to communicate this to all members of the Forest School.

Risk Management of Tools and Equipment

General Rules for tool use

  • All tools must have an individual risk assessment in the Health and Safety folder.
  • Ensure safe storage and responsibility by Forest School leader at Forest School site.
  • Never walk around with tools.
  • Always make sure the tools are clean and sharp before using them.
  • When using tools with children it should be with the Forest School leader.
  • When using tools only use them in the designated tool area where the child and the Forest School leader can sit while using the tool.


  • Must be with the Forest School leader.
  • Always used in the designated tool area.
  • Always sit down when using the knife.
  • Ensure knife is closed and locked when not in use.
  • Open the knife away from you sitting down with plenty of space around you (ensure that there is no other person within arms reach of you and always ensure safe working practice. When using the knife it must be put down if another person comes into the safe zone).
  • Always use the penknife away from your body.
  • Always ensure the children are supported when using the penknife on a one to one or one to two ratio dependent on age and experience.

Potato Peeler

  • Must be with the Forest School leader.
  • Always in a designated tool area.
  • Always sit down when using the potato peeler with plenty of space around you.
  • Always use the potato peeler away from your body.
  • Always ensure the children are supported when using the potato peeler on a one to one or one to two ratio dependent on age and experience.

Bow Saw

  • Ensure guard is on when not in use.
  • Must only be used with a Forest School leader.
  • Always used in the designated tool area.
  • Use the bow saw with a saw horse where possible.
  • Hold and use the bow saw in the correct manner.
  • Ensure safe storage and handling in Forest School.

Safety Procedures for Lighting and Cooking An Open Fire

  • Council permission for fire lighting must always be sought in advance. Permission to have no trace fires has been given however always inform the council that a fire will be used for a lesson. If a larger fire is to be used for a gathering then the Fire Brigade need to be notified and the relevant risk assessment provided. In accordance with the council guidelines we can only light no trace fires in fire buckets or fire tins.
  • Fire lighting is always supervised by an adult and is never left unattended. Children are taught how to clear the site of leaves, grass and rocks and to check for insect homes. Water is always on hand and within reach and all fuel is within reach of the person in control of the fire.
  • Positioning of Children and Adults.
  • Fire areas are surrounded by seating logs at least 1.5 metres from the fire pit.
  • When the campfire is in use, children are not permitted to access the area without permission.
  • When allowed to access the campfire, children must walk around the outside of the seating logs and wait for permission to step over. Once permission has been given they must sit, ensuring legs are drawn into the log and not outstretched towards the fire.
  • Once seated around the campfire, the children must remain seated until directed by an adult to move.
  • Children will be taught how to change seats by standing, stepping over the log and then walking around the outside of the seating area. They must never cross the inner area.
  • Long sleeves and trousers must always be worn.
  • Children are not permitted to throw anything onto the fire.
  • Advice on the appropriate way for dealing with smoke will be given to the children:
    • they are advised to turn their head to one side, placing their hand across the face, to close their eyes and count to 30 (or ask an adult/peer to count for them).
    • If there is a clear wind direction, seating in the line of smoke is to be avoided.
  • If wind direction is variable; the leader should rearrange the seating if at all possible.
  • When cooking, fire is only big enough for demonstration (fit for purpose) of cooking and the Forest School Leader is to wear a glove. Children are taught from their first visit to Forest School that when they come to base camp, they step over their log and never walk/run through the middle of the circle, even when there is no fire.

Safety and Responsibility

Lighting and keeping fires burning

  • Only adults are permitted to light fires. This will usually be the Forest School Leader.
  • Fires are lit using fire lighting blocks, newspaper and matches or a strike stick.
  • No flammable liquids are to be used to light or accelerate fires.
  • No plastics are to be burnt.
  • If sessions involve children adding fuel to the fire; this must be done with one to one adult supervision.
  • Sticks/wood must be placed, not thrown, from the side of the fire. The hand should never go over the fire.

Extinguishing Fires

  • All fires must be extinguished at the end of a session.
  • Water should always be to hand during campfire sessions.
  • Whenever possible, all fuels should be burnt off to ash.
  • Forest School Leaders should ensure that any large remains of wood are separated from one another.
  • At the end of the session, the fire must be doused down with water and stirred until all smoke and steam has ceased.

Toileting Considerations

The Forest School leader will bring a travel potty and tarpaulin out with them to each Forest School session in order to provide the children with a safe and private area to relieve themselves. The shelter should be closed at least on 3 sides. The easiest way to do this is to form a Teepee with a tarp wrapped round it.

Where an adult does accompany a child to the toilet they must be visible to other adults at all times and inform another member of staff where they are and with which child.

Legal Requirements for Toilets according to HSE

Legally employers must provide a range of facilities to ensure the wellbeing of their workers. If you employ anyone, even for a short period, you must make sure that he or she has ready access to clean toilet, hand-washing, and first aid facilities, a comfortable, sheltered area in which to eat, an adequate supply of drinking water, and a place to rest if unwell.

These basic requirements, as set out in the Health and Safety in Employment (HSE) Regulations, apply to every workplace, including forests, farms, construction sites, and other remote or short term places of employment.

The facilities Must be:

  • Suitable for their intended use.
  • Sufficient to cater for the 
number of users.
  • Maintained in good order and 
condition, and;
  • Conveniently accessible by all 
  • In addition, the whole workplace – including toilets and washing areas – must be kept clean and in an hygienic state, adequately lit and ventilated, and provided with some means of controlling atmospheric conditions.
  • Including air velocity, radiant heat and temperature.

In a forest school environment you would not be expected to have the same level of facilities as an office or factory, but guidelines produced by the HSE indicate that a reasonable standard of amenities is expected, regardless of the situation.

All facilities need to be well constructed, weatherproof and easy to clean, with good lighting and ventilation. Toilets should have hinged seats and lids, locking doors and a plentiful supply of toilet paper; washbasins should be supplied with soap and paper towels.

Qualifications for Overnight Camps

Many London Boroughs or Councils do not allow overnight camps on their site being used however if overnight camps are possible a minimum requirement for running such a camp could be either of the following qualifications.

Level 3 Certificate in Basic Expedition Leadership
Countryside Leader Award

Prior to running an overnight camp the borough in which the woods are should be approached.

If the land is owned privately then the landowner should be made aware of the duration of the camp and the number of people attending together with a risk assessment for the camp.

The scope of the two qualifications can be summarized as:

Leading walks and camping expeditions in normal rural open countryside or forest.

Broader Context

The overarching framework of the CLA and BEL scope is one of non- hazardous activities in non-hazardous terrain. Individual points listed here must always be taken within this broader context.


CLA scope includes:

Training and Supervision roles:

  • Direct supervision (guided walking and camping).
  • Remote supervision (leading unaccompanied groups).
  • Training of groups to walk and camp unaccompanied.

Open countryside and farmland where outside help (e.g. a hamlet or well-travelled road) is accessible within 30 minutes.

Journeys planned to finish two hours before sunset.

Camping (including wild-camping) in sheltered, accessible locations.

Night-walks that:

Are guided (directly supervised) by the CLA holder Are a planned and separate activity.

Leave from and return to the campsite or base Follow simple routes on well-marked paths and are less than 2 hours’ duration.


  • High or remote country (mountains, upland, moor, bog or fell).
  • Areas where a trip or slip could result in serious injury or fatality.
  • Planned night walking as an extension of the day’s walk.
  • Winter conditions (i.e. where snow is falling, is on the ground or is forecast; ice, extreme cold or other inhospitable weather conditions).
  • Camping in remote locations.
  • The onus is on the CLA holder to decide whether an activity is suitable. They must be aware of and follow good practice, which will include considering:
    • Whether the terrain and conditions fall within the scope of this award.
    • Whether they have sufficient competence, confidence and experience to be leading a given group in any given area/conditions.

Insurance Requirements

Employers Liability and Public Liability Insurance is held.

Employers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees while they are at work.

Your employees may be injured at work or they, or your former employees, may become ill as a result of their work while in your employment. They might try to claim compensation from you if they believe you are responsible. The Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 ensures that you have at least a minimum level of insurance cover against any such claims.

Public liability insurance is different. It covers you for claims made against you by members of the public or other businesses, but not for claims by employees. While public liability insurance is generally voluntary, employers’ liability insurance is compulsory. You can be fined if you do not hold a current employers’ liability insurance policy, which complies with the law.

Down in The woods Ltd has its own insurance policy that falls within the guidelines of Richmond, Kingston, Sutton and Epsom boroughs.

Public liability Insurance of 10,000,000 and Employers liability of 5,000,000 will cover liability to third parties in connection with business activities that arise from bodily injury or death of any person, accidental loss of or damage to the property of others.

First Aid Kit

  • Nitrile cloves.
  • Hand sanitizing gel.
  • Disinfectant wipes.
  • Rebereath (mouth to mouth shield).
  • Assorted small plasters.
  • Assorted steri-strips.
  • Sterile non-woven swabs.
  • Large adhesive wound dressings.
  • Micropore surgical tape.
  • Assortment of wound dressings (bandages).
  • Eye dressings x 2.
  • Sterile saline eye wash solution.
  • Triangular bandages.
  • Otom tick remover www.otom.com.
  • First aid and wilderness medicine book.
  • Cicerone Dr Jim duff and Dr Peter Gormly 2005.

Equipment For Basic Skills Activities

Fire lighting

  • Cotton wool buds.
  • Flint stikers.
  • Newspaper.
  • Matches.
  • Dry kindling.
  • Leather insulated gauntlets.
  • Buckets for Water (near the fire).

Shelter building

  • Biodegradable string sisal.
  • Loppers.
  • Secateurs.
  • Bow saw with dry wood blade Bacho Laplander small hand saw.
  • Softwood saw.
  • Knives.
  • Knot information sheets with instructions of how to tie.
  • Reef knot, clove hitch, square lashing and bowline.


  • Kelly Kettle 1l version.
  • Long handled frying pan.
  • Fire tin or Hearth (to enable fires that leave no trace).
  • Kindling and some dry firewood to start.
  • Insulated gauntlets to take pots off the fire with.
  • Firelighters.
  • Matches (long version).
  • Assorted pots and pans with fire proof handles or cast iron skillets.

Never Use liquid fire accelerants.