Our Forest School

Forest School offers a stimulating, inspiring and holistic process that offers all participants the opportunity to learn, develop and achieve in a natural, outdoor setting. It is a specialised learning approach that sits within the boundaries of formal education, but through a range of activities and hands-on learning experiences, often provides an environment that is student-led with a strong focus on building confidence, resilience and self-esteem.

Total learner involvement is essential in Forest School; all individuals, styles, abilities and personalities are valued and encouraged through a series of short, achievable tasks. All students are encouraged to follow their own learning and development through a process of exploration and discovery; they are encouraged to take risks in a safe environment and to challenge themselves. In doing this, participants form strong and positive relationships with themselves and other people, as well as with their natural world.

A range of activities in turn encourage positive communication: speaking, listening and collaboration. Physical movement supports both fine and gross motor skill development, which can be further fine-tuned in areas such as campfire cooking and the use of tools. For some of our students, our sessions have a literacy focus in which a multi-sensory approach to reading and writing is taken.

The Institute of Education has recently researched the effects of Wildlife Trust activities on a child’s wellbeing and the ability to learn. The results concluded that the benefits of connecting to nature were not just emotional, but were found to positively affect the child’s education. In an outdoor environment brimming with exciting opportunities, the discreet teaching methods of literacy, numeracy and science are endless, as are the interesting and engaging ways to explore, discover and research.

The results concluded that the benefits of working outdoors and connecting with wildlife and nature were not just focused on well-being but were found to help support academic standards and achievement.

Students with autism or social-emotional barriers to learning benefit from our Forest School sessions as they have a fundamentally person-centred ethos. We provide the environment and space necessary for all of our young people to learn self-awareness and to recognise qualities and positive values within themselves and others. We assist in managing their emotions and help them to make responsible decisions. We also teach social awareness and model how to form and maintain positive relationships. We promote a culture of kindness and empathy for others in which we can learn from our mistakes.

Within a safe sensory environment each individual can be themselves, we can reduce the demands that a normal busy day would bring, ensuring that time can be taken to process and experience the senses that being in the forest evokes.

All of our staff here at Toucan are trained specifically to accommodate diverse and special needs learners. We thrive on the development of each student and work closely with the education authority to ensure we complement the student’s school or placement by recording and sharing relevant observation and information.

What is a Forest School and why would a student attend?


A forest school is an educational approach that takes place primarily outdoors, often in woodland or natural environments. The aim of a forest school is to help children develop confidence, independence, and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in nature. These schools often follow a child-led approach, where the children themselves choose what activities to engage in and how to explore and interact with their environment. 

Attending a forest school can provide many benefits for students, including:
  1. Improved physical health: Spending time outdoors and engaging in activities like hiking, climbing, and exploring can help children develop physical skills, improve coordination, and strengthen their immune systems.
  2. Enhanced mental well-being: Being in nature has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health, helping to reduce stress, improve mood, and boost concentration.
  3. Increased confidence and independence: Forest schools often encourage children to take risks, problem-solve, and explore their environment independently. This can help build self-confidence and independence in children.
  4. Development of social skills: Working together in a natural environment can help children develop social skills like communication, teamwork, and empathy. Children may also have the opportunity to engage in cooperative games, which can foster a sense of community and cooperation.
  5. Improved academic performance: Learning outdoors can be more engaging and memorable for children, helping to improve their attention, concentration, and motivation to learn.
Attending a forest school can provide a unique and valuable learning experience for students, helping them to develop a range of skills, knowledge, and personal attributes that can benefit them throughout their lives.

“The benefits of working outdoors and connecting with wildlife and nature are not just focused on well-being but were found to help support academic standards and achievement.”

The Institute of Education
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can come to the Toucan Forest School?

We accept children of both primary and secondary school ages, self funded by parents / guardians, and also placements by schools and local authorities / LEAs.

How long are the sessions?

Our sessions run from 10am to 2pm

What do the students need to wear?

The safety and the welfare of the pupils participating in Forest School is paramount and therefore all tasks are age appropriate and risk assessed. However, the correct clothing is essential for Forest School. It is advised to wear old clothes as we do not intend on staying clean and clothes may be damaged through wear and tear during some of our activities.

  • Long sleeved T-Shirt
  • Trousers, to reduce the risk of bites, stings & scratches
  • Waterproof trousers & jackets
  • Wellies or old trainers
  • During the summer, a sunhat and suncream
  • During the colder months, extra layers such as a fleece, leggings, tights, hats and gloves
Do we need to bring a packed lunch?

We will have a snack which is typically hot chocolate, popcorn and S’mores made over the fire.

Students will be encouraged to cook their own lunch (which we supply the ingredients for) outdoors and the menu is determined from week to week using student feedback. Lunches typically include bacon butties, curry, kebabs, flatbread pizza, full English breakfast, bean burritos, etc.

We would advise that your child still brings their own snack in case the child does not like the food on offer. We will always try to accommodate the child and your suggestions are always welcomed.

Juice and water are always available.

What kind of activities will the students do?

Sessions may include some of the following:

  • Using a variety of tools safely and independently.
  • Woodwork and Bushcraft.
  • Building and painting equipment sheds, and pods.
  • Gathering appropriate wood, building a safe fire pit, making natural fire lighters and learning to safely light a fire.
  • Identifying plants, flowers and trees and planting, caring and maintaining the area.
  • Identifying and caring for local wildlife.
  • Practical, project-based tasks such as a Ship Wreck or Desert Island activity that involves working as a team to survive!
  • Designing and building a variety of shelters and understanding their purpose.
  • Art and sculpture work using paint, clay, mud and other natural materials.
  • Learning how to effectively tie and use knots and other rope and string work.
  • Physical movement activities such as group games, these may include discreet literacy and drama activities.
  • Sensory recognition tasks.
  • Outdoor cooking and making our own cutlery and utensils to cook and eat with.
  • Designing and building Eco-friendly furniture.
What kind of things will the students learn?
  • To become motivated, interested and enthused about education
  • Learn how to design and create independently
  • Problem solving
  • Develop concentration and the ability to retain and recall
  • Develop fine and gross motor skills
  • Gain an understanding of their environment and how their actions may affect the world and others around them
  • Decision-make and feel confident communicating with others
  • Learn how to manage emotions and behaviour and be able to learn from their mistakes or failures while working in an outdoor setting
  • Learn how to effectively risk assess specific situations independently and learn to take care of themselves and others
  • To inspire and motivate others around them.
  • Understand the need to move around and stay healthy
  • Comprehend the requirements of sustaining a healthy and balanced diet
How many staff will there be?

Staffing ratios will be adhered to and any child requiring 1 to 1 support will have this during Forest School sessions. Forest School sessions are inclusive and planned to allow pupils, including SEN to participate fully.

Why a code B for attendance?

We have looked at other similar provisions across the country that successfully use a code B, however you may decide to record this as a medical- as linked to SEN needs. All we ask is a child is not marked as absent as they are attending Ofsted registered education led by highly qualified teachers and SEN specialists.

Where is the Toucan Forest School?

Our newly created Forest School Site is in Ryton, which is also a Wildlife Area.

We are also lucky enough to be close to The Willows, a local nature reserve. On occasion, we use Toucan transport to take the students safely there and we are able to bird watch, fish in the pond and look for the protected newts that the beautiful reeds and trees provide shelter for. Consent forms and parental permissions slips will be included in the welcome pack parents or schools receive from Toucan. 

When there is severe weather forecast, which can include wind, heavy rain or snow, we will first look to continue the session at an alternative location which it is safe to do so if at all possible. This will be communicated to parents / carers will as much notice as possible.

How much do Forest School sessions cost?

The cost for a child to attend the Toucan Education Forest School can vary depending on their needs. If the child can be accommodated in existing sessions, without any additional resources or staff needed, the standard rate is £xxx per session, plus VAT. If a child needs additional resources or staffing, we’ll be happy to quote you for this on a case by case basis.

If self-funded parents / guardians are able to access childcare vouchers through an employer, then we can usually accept these too.

How can I pay?

Payment for self funded sessions is normally via a monthly Direct Debit, with the cost spread over the term in order to give you a fixed cost.

Schools and local authorities are able to pay on invoice.

Together we can

” The Forest School has been a transformative experience for the children involved. Motivated, engaged and happy are words I would use to describe the children as they participate in a range of activities. This includes a range of creative activities to develop deep thinking, reflection, problem solving and greater independence. From my conversations with the children taking part, I know how much they enjoy and look forward to the day. I have observed a noticeable impact on their social interaction skills as they collaborate and work as part of a wider team. “

Kevin McVittie, Headteacher, Hotspur Primary School

” Who knew that my child was interested in anything other than Minecraft – thank you Toucan!

You have made a huge difference to our family life, as a parent I feel more confident and not alone. “

Parent with autistic children

“We’ve seen a huge benefit in sending pupils to Toucan forest school, it has benefitted them socially and emotionally. The staff at Toucan have been really helpful in sharing strategies that we can use for the rest of the week in school and we find he returns in a much more calm and settled manner the day after he has been. We would highly recommend Toucan Education.“

Mrs C Thompson and Mrs R Brunton, Co-Headteachers, Burnopfield Primary

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