When running a forest school it is important to develop a set of policies. In the first instance policies will help you have a standard procedure/plan for dealing with issues and clear set of guidelines to work within. These policies allow should be available to others as they will show your good practice and often reassure people to the practices your forest school follows.
When creating policies it is not necessary to start completely from scratch often you will find example policies that can be adapted to your own setting or organisation. I have created a list of some key policies you may require below, it is not exhaustive as often other organisations will have different expectations and requirements. With each policy listed you will find a link to a model policy and some links to ones from my setting. I am set in a school and often an element may be covered in a much larger policy that is not particularly relevant to just a Forest School setting.
Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy: This is an essential document for any institution involved in education including Forest Schools. Often different LEA will have their own model policies that cover all the legal requirements, Birmingham now combines both policies in the same document:
My Settings Policy: Safeguarding-Policy-St-Barnabas
Birmingham’s Model Policy: Safeguarding-Policy
Health and Safety Policy: Again an essential document to outline the risk assessment procedure for both adults and children. In School settings you will often find that this is encompassed in a whole school policy.
My Settings Policy: Health and safety policy St Barnabas
Forest School Wales Model Policy: Health and Safety Policy
Fire Safety Policy: This Policy should consider the who/where/when/how of the fire to ensure it is run safely. It should also be linked to an evacuation/emergency policy in case of injury or spreading fire. The Fire Safety Policy should be in line with that of where you are practicing and if you have your own woods you need to carefully consider the emergency procedures. As we haven’t run fires in school yet, we don’t have a specific Fire Safety Policy.
Forest School Model Policy: Model Fire Safety Policy
Tool Use Policy: This policy covers the safe use of all tools in a woodland setting. It should be used in conjunction with the tool cards found on the Tool Skills Pages of the website (Click Here to visit).
Example Policy: Tool Use Policy
Equal Opportunities Policy: This includes equal opportunities for the staff and volunteers as well as the children/clients. You should ensure that you avoid discrimination as a leader but also encourage and foster an ethos that encourages everyone.
Model Equal Opportunities Policy: Equal-Opportunities-Model Policy
There are an endless amount of policies that could be written for any organisation. As an individual working alone or if you are working in a larger organisation you need to decide which ones are necessary for your setting.
When entering a forest school setting it is important that you have your own set of procedures to follow yourself and for your group to follow. Below are a few examples of procedures you may wish to consider:
- Personal Kit: Have you informed clients about the kit they will need. Have you ensured they have brought the required kit? I developed a kit list that I distribute beforehand (click here to see the list).
- Essential Information(medical/contact/etc) about your group: If you are set at a school it is often held by the main school office. However, if working with an unfamiliar group it is essential to collect this information beforehand. (Click here for a sample information collection form). With the new Data Protection Regulations starting in May 2018, you must ensure you have a safe procedure for the storage and access to this information.
- Food/Water/Rubbish/Toileting/Hygiene: If working on a school site these answers are easily answered, however when working off site you must plan your procedure for providing and dealing with the these circumstance. (Click Here for Sample School Hygiene Procedure)
- Equipment: Ensure you prepare your equipment before starting the session. Your plans should highlight the equipment that you need. Ensure your equipment is in good working order and do not use equipment that isn’t. Have a procedure in place for where the equipment will be stored safely when not in use. Remember to teach tool talks before allowing use of the tools (Click here to learn more about hand tools).
- Emergency Procedures: When working on a school site you will often find that these emergency procedures are already in place. However, if working off site in woodland you need to consider what to do in case of Emergency. (Click here for some sample emergency procedures)