Riddlesworth Hall Preparatory School in Diss has been officially recognised as a Forest School, with two accredited teachers providing regular outdoor sessions which are proven to increase learning and improve physical and emotional wellbeing.
The independent school, which caters for boys and girls aged two to 13, has always encouraged fun outdoor activities and learning within the school’s 30 acres of woods and parkland. As part of its 70th anniversary celebrations, it has now provided training for two of its teachers to become accredited Forest School practitioners. Kerry Hawksworth has completed training to become a qualified Level 3 Forest School Leader and Sue Dixon is currently completing training to become a Level 2 Forest School Assistant.
The Scandinavian-inspired Forest School ethos has been developed to provide a different approach to using the outdoor environment for teaching in the UK. It uses the natural world to help bring traditional curriculum subjects to life.
Kerry Hawksworth explained: “Being a Forest School is more than just making the most of the fantastic woodland we have around our school. It’s a long-term teaching approach in which the activities we plan can be carefully tailored to the needs of the individuals in each group. They are designed to build confidence, independence and creativity through hands-on learning experiences. We pride ourselves on a family atmosphere and the Forest School sessions can sometimes feel more like weekend fun. But there’s no doubt that the children learn a great deal, and this desire for learning is encouraged and transferred back to the classroom.”
National research has shown that Forest School activities increase children’s emotional and physical wellbeing by encouraging them to spend more time in the natural environment and to become more active. Additional life skills, such as teamwork and communication, are also developed through activities ranging from shelter building through to environmental art.
Headmaster, Paul Cochrane, added: “Becoming a Forest School is part of our overall plan to provide an outdoor education programme for all our children. Taking children outside of the normal classroom environment helps them to engage in all types of subjects, from science through numeracy and literacy. You also see the children come alive when they are playing and learning in the woods, and we believe that happy children work harder and achieve more.”
From September, students of all ages at Riddlesworth Hall will have weekly outdoor education sessions included within their timetable. The school, which has been home to famous students including Lady Diana Spencer and designer Lulu Guinness, is also building a new log-cabin classroom within the woods, which will be ready for the start of the new school year.