3.1 – Create a Forest School handbook containing relevant policies and procedures in line with statutory requirements and good practice specific to own client group and Forest School site

Policies are rules and guidelines for groups or organisations to help them establish a better structure. Much of the work I have been involved with to date has been for schools or organisations and has been covered by their insurance and we’ve been expected to work in line with their policies and procedures. Being an unincorporated association means we don’t have the same need for policy and procedure documents as schools and other organisations. It’s something we’re slowly introducing though as we work with more groups. We’re also anticipating changing the legal structure of the organisation in the future and that will likely bring with it additional requirements with regards to policies.

The idea of writing policies and procedures can be daunting at first but there are numerous guides and templates available online. There is no need to write one from scratch as it is usually appropriate to adapt an existing policy from a similar provider or organisation. Not having a fixed site makes it a little trickier to write some policies as they tend to be written for groups working in the same building.

One policy that we did set up from the beginning was a safeguarding policy. The safeguarding policy is based on the template provided by the NSPCC.

An organisation I worked for did ask for an equality policy and the one we have was adapted from the equality policy of a school I used to work for.

The most interesting policy is the Health and Safety policy (not very often you say that!) which was modified from a template found on the Forest School Wales website. It needs modifying to make it more generic as it is currently focussed on work with schools.

The session routines document is easily the most used. It’s a great check list for making sure you’ve covered everything. This one is taken from a document used by the Forest of Avon Trust.

For each different site (not including sessions on school grounds) I create an information sheet with details of the location and contact information. An example of the sheet produced for the site used for the portfolio sessions can be downloaded below. This document also contains a data collection form used to gather basic details about the parent and child and consent to take photographs.

 

Policies:

Best Practise Procedures

In addition to the statutory policies there are some best practise procedures that should be followed to ensure sessions are as safe as possible and have minimal impact on the site.

Disposal of waste water

Fresh clean water can be disposed of on site. Any grey water should be removed from site and disposed of in the drains of the education centre.

Lost child

In the event a child becoming lost while at forest school, the forest school leader will put into practice the following procedures. These ensure that a systematic approach to find the child is taken and consideration is given to the levels of risk to the child.

In the event that a child is lost, we will ensure a search is made for the child as soon as possible, parents and authorities are notified at the appropriate stage, and a high level of care is maintained to other children at the pre-school while procedures are followed.

We will check the register to confirm the child came to forest school. A quick search of surrounding areas will take place.

While the initial search is made, the leader will make enquiries of all adults to establish the last sighting and time, clothes that the child was wearing, and the mental state of the child (happy, upset etc.).

The supervisor will then telephone the police and report the situation and follow their advice.

The parent or carer will be contacted. Telephone lines should remain as free as possible so that messages are not delayed.

The activities for the remaining children will continue as normal and staff not involved in the search will give the children proper attention.

Equipment

We aim to provide children with resources and equipment which help to consolidate and extend their knowledge, skills, interests and aptitudes.

We provide a sufficient quantity of equipment and resources for the number of children and equipment and resources which promote continuity and progression. #

We provide natural and recycled materials which are in good condition and safe for the children to use.

We check all resources and equipment regularly and repair and clean, or replace any unsafe, worn out, dirty or damaged equipment.

We plan the provision of activities and appropriate resources so that a balance of familiar equipment and resources and new exciting challenges is offered.

Emergency Action Plan

This is a brief outline for what to do if an emergency/accident occurs whilst working with young people/children or students in an outdoor environment:

  • Secure the group members and keep together in a safe area.
  • Assess the incident and prioritise actions/injuries.
  • Know the grid ref / postcode of your location.
  • Seek help if necessary.
  • Inform appropriate authorities and if working with a school the link contact.
  • If necessary and you are appropriately trained offer first aid.
  • Keep casualty comfortable and warm.
  • Check the rest of the group.
  • Make sure individuals are comfortable and safe.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek assistance.
  • DO NOT SPEAK TO THE MEDIA.

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