Forest Schools Birmingham

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Forest Schools Birmingham's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Forest Schools Birmingham is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Managing Director Afric Crossan
at the Kingstanding Food
Community Project
Teachers learn practical skills
to pass on to their children
Forest Schools Birmingham is a community interest company
with a specific focus on working with schools. Covering
Birmingham and the West Midlands, the firm delivers forest
school and outdoor learning programmes as well as teacher
training and community engagement projects. Managing
Director Afric Crossan believes that all children should have
access to the outdoors and to that end provides trained and
experienced practitioners who work with children who are
vulnerable or marginalised in some way.
We work with children in green spaces in the school grounds using a varied learning
style. While we recognise there are various in-class methods of care, the children we
work with often struggle in the conventional education system for any number of
reasons, ranging from pressures at home to undiagnosed learning conditions. We
work with a range of children as a means to encourage them to learn new skills.
Community centred
We began in 1999, run by a group of volunteers. Soon after this, one of our
founders was identified as someone who ought to go and train as a forest schools
educator, intended as a method of engagement for those who are particularly
vulnerable. In 2004 we registered as an organisation and began to educate children
in this way, using our collective of passionate and highly skilled practitioners to
impart knowledge in this manner. We believe passionately in the ability nature
has to heal and in the therapeutic benefits of being outdoors. All children in
Birmingham should have access to this type of environment on a daily basis.
»Managing Director:
»Founded in 2004
»Located in Birmingham
»Services: Working with all
schools throughout the region
to facilitate outdoor learning
and forest schools as part of
daily teaching practice
»No. of employees: 8
employees, 45 volunteers
Forest Schools
Highlighting best practice
Much of the engagement with young
people is centred around the campfire
and held in green wooded spaces. The
way in which we operate develops
the esteem of children in addition to
encouraging them to become self-
aware. We also use a range of activities
to build strong social skills and bonds
within their groups.
We work with groups of both children
and teachers, and more recently we
have focused on growing projects such
as “from plot to plate” – especially
important in times in which schools
are realising the importance of
sustainability. We spend part of our
year training teachers to educate their
own students and put the skills into
practice in their own schools.
We also run the Kingstanding Food
Community, a Lottery-funded project
which works with those who struggle
with mental health issues in the
community. We teach people how
to grow and cook their own produce
– and meet other members of the
community while doing so. The food is
subsequently cooked and served in the
community café.
Teaching teachers
We have recently completed a forest
school training course with 22 inner-
city teachers in Birmingham. Having
run this training previously, we made
the decision to move our venue to
a site a half-hour journey outside of
the city to ensure teachers could fully
engage themselves in the course. The
immersive nature of this experience
proved to us we had made the
The impact we have had has been
phenomenal, especially in a time
when teachers are living and working
in increasingly budget and results-
conscious times. For those who are
struggling with the constraints of
conventional education, the course
allows them to go back to their home
institutions with a refreshed view of
education and of themselves.
In terms of impact, on average, the
teachers we work with have a direct
impact on 500 children, which means
that the course we have just run will
affect 11,000 students. Teachers
informed us that the week had left
them wanting to provide this kind of
experience on a daily basis.
Twenty-two inner-city
teachers learn about
nature and forest school
intervention in schools
The impact we
have had has
especially in a
time when
teachers are
living and
working in
budget and
Pressing issues
We find that in spite of the extensive
press activity surrounding mental
health and climate change, not enough
is being done on the ground, and as
such we are not able to support what
is going on in the news. Children and
teachers are having increasing pressure
put on them in terms of the attainment
levels required for literacy, numeracy
and the sciences. We believe that more
funding needs to be put in place to
support teachers and children, and
to visibly and actively support staff in
implanting simple, attainable strategies
to support good mental health
and encourage children to become
protective of their localenvironment.
We have noticed that as the years
progress, the pots of funding we
formerly had access to have all
but disappeared. This means the
provision we are able to provide has
subsequently decreased. Services that
support children outside of school
have decreased, and the majority of
contacts in the council have been
made redundant.
The impact to the council has a direct
impact on us – Birmingham City
Council has been particularly targeted
for budget cuts, and with this the
educational provisions have been
pared back once more. The withdrawal
of funding demands we find our own,
and as such all groups are forced to
compete for the same pots of money.
Flying the flag
In the coming years, we hope to
continue to fly the flag for training
teachers in forest school and for
sustainability, and to see our work
go further. We want to be well
established within schools and are
currently working on a project to focus
on the coal valley in Birmingham. The
area, not currently well known for its
river, is one we hope to help to clean
up. We have been inundated with
offers from volunteers to clean up the
valley and are looking forward to the
project and bringing schools and local
people together to combat antisocial
behaviours in this area.
We hope to become a conduit for
bringing groups together, thereby
changing the face and environment
of the city. Overall, we want to
empower the residents of Birmingham
In the coming
years, we
hope to
continue to fly
the flag for
teachers in
forest school
and for
Nature engagement is
vital, more now than

This article was sponsored by Forest Schools Birmingham. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development