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What is Forest School Training and Why Become a Leader?

Children jumping in a puddle

Considering a career in education but not sure a classroom is the right fit for you? If you love the outdoors and you’re keen to teach the next generation about their natural surroundings, then training to be a Forest School leader could be right up your street. But what is Forest School and what exactly does a leader do? Read on to find out!

What is Forest School?

Forest School is a developmental approach to education that is used by outdoor leaders around the world. It gained momentum in Scandinavia in the 1950s, where the open-air lifestyle, 'friluftsliv', is commonplace, though Forest School’s history can be traced back to the 1900s. In the UK, Forest School has grown in popularity over the past two decades and outdoor learning is now part of the school curriculum – particularly at the Early Years stage.

Forest School is a great way for children to learn about the outdoors while developing a wide range of skills. It encourages and inspires them to get involved in outdoor activities and to explore their natural environment. Forest School also introduces children to a more hands-on approach to learning in which they take the lead. This often involves problem solving and supported risk taking, which helps to boost their confidence and self-esteem.

Children playing with mud

Forest School Leaders and the programmes they run are therefore pivotal to child development. Every practitioner undertakes a Level 3 Forest Leader qualification with a training provider such as Broaden in order to provide high-quality outdoor learning sessions. They also update their skills regularly to stay on top of the latest techniques.

As a holistic approach to learning, the Forest School process helps children grow in many ways, including socially, emotionally, physically and intellectually. Forest School also gives learners the chance to try new things and learn how to calculate risk for themselves, in a safe and supportive setting. This helps build resilience and teaches them skills that they can use in everyday life, enabling them to become more independent and make better choices.

As well as fostering creativity and improving decision-making skills, learning in nature is great for children’s physical health and mental wellbeing. Outdoor play builds stamina, agility, strength, stability and improves coordination. Forest School also helps children understand their place in the world by connecting them with the natural environment.

What is Forest School Training?

Whether you’re new to teaching or you’ve already got some experience under your belt, Broaden’s Level 3 Forest School Leadership programme is designed to qualify trainees to become leaders who can organise and manage Forest School Programmes in a sustainable, learner-led way.

This qualification provides the knowledge and skills needed to lead groups in a Forest School setting. It is perfect for those who want to broaden their horizons and gain a deeper understanding of the resources needed to plan and deliver Forest School programmes. Learners will also gain skills in supporting children and young people’s development while working safely in the outdoors. Learn more about the core principles and competencies here.

Our leader programme takes around 180 hours to complete and you can choose whether you want to learn online or face-to-face, depending on how you learn best. You’ll cover a range of topics, including mandatory units on the theory behind Forest School and how the process aids Early Years development.

In addition, you’ll gain a variety of practical skills needed to lead groups, such as how to create activity plans for sessions like den-building and knot-tying, as well as how to conduct risk assessments and analyse benefits/risks in natural environments. Our Forest School training also includes a helpful tool list to guide learners on the requirements of their facility.

Plus, each and every trainee will have access to 24/7 support from their tutor, as well as a one-on-one practical session on how to use targeted tools for the children they will be working with. This helps to ensure that the activities each leader provides are appropriate for their learner’s age and ability, and that they offer the best learning opportunities possible.

Why should you become a Forest School Leader?

If you love the outdoors and are passionate about children and young people’s development and wellbeing, then a Forest School leader role could be perfect for you.

Child watering plants in garden

As a leader, you will help children progress by teaching them a range of new personal and social skills, and how to protect the environment around them. You will have a number of different responsibilities from those centred around childcare practitioners to those closer to a ranger's responsibilities. It’s therefore an ideal career for anyone who likes variety in their work and enjoys being outside.

Forest School offers children opportunities to develop their self-belief and self-esteem, as well as improving their calmness and ability to overcome obstacles through hands-on, practical tasks. So, if you want to make a difference to both the next generation and the natural world, you’ll no doubt find a Forest School leader job extremely rewarding.

The life of a Forest School Leader

Considering applying for our Forest School training programme? To help you imagine yourself in this role and determine whether it would be the right fit for you, it may be helpful to hear what other Forest School Leaders have to say about what it entails.

Here is what one of our past students Dawn has to say about her experiences as a Forest School Leader after her training with Broaden:

Dawn’s experience as a Forest School Leader

Dawn completing forest school training

I studied to become a Level 3 Forest School Leader in the beginning of 2019. I have been running my own forest school sessions with 3 to 4-year-old children since 2017 and have been sharing my own knowledge. I now combine my own knowledge with what I have learnt from the course to create even better sessions. I teach the children about the environment that they are in - about the different trees, leaves and seeds from the trees, plants and their root systems and fungi and how to recognise them according to the seasons.

I teach them about the wildlife from the UK woodlands, including identifying different birds by song and colour. I enjoy inspiring them to look for insects and investigate the world around them, giving them opportunities to experience the natural world and tune into nature. I teach them different skills about how to take care of themselves, how to grow vegetables, build dens, and tie knots, while helping them to understand boundaries and hazards. Most importantly I teach them how to survive, and of course, how to take risks in a responsible way.

My sessions are done outside in all weathers in order for the children to experience the changing sessions. Parents can see the difference in their children. After a year of forest school sessions, they can see they have become more grounded and more confident to be independent young people.


Forest School Training is an extremely rewarding path to take. If you have a passion for the outdoors and enjoy discovering and teaching others about the joys of nature, it will help you take the next step in your career in childcare and education.

Ready to inspire the next generation to appreciate their natural surroundings and take care of them too? Learn more about our Level 3 Forest School Leadership course online or reach out to us via email at and one of our friendly team members will respond to your query as soon as they can.

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