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Three schools win Excellence in Forestry Awards
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Excellence in Forestry Schools Award winners: Chris Brunton (left), representing Pinewood School, and Nick Halsey, President Elect of the Royal Forestry Society, plant a tree to celebrate.

Date Issued: 27 July 2011


Three schools have swept the board in the Royal Forestry Society Excellence in Forestry Schools Award 2011: a secondary school for students with moderate learning difficulties and complex needs in Hertfordshire; a day nursery in Nottinghamshire; and an infant school in Derbyshire

The Awards were open to schools and educational organisations in an area ranging from Derbyshire to north London boroughs and East Anglia. They aim to encourage and reward those that increase understanding and appreciation of woodlands and of the link between trees and everyday wood products. The awards are held annually, rotating around England, Wales and Northern Ireland over a seven year period – and being a Forest School is not an entry requirement!

Winning first place was Pinewood School in Hoe Road, Ware, Hertfordshire.

Judging the 2011 competition, Susannah Podmore, Forest Education Initiative Coordinator for England, said: “We felt that their whole school approach was the most impressive of all we saw.

“Chris Brunton, who is Head of Outdoor Education and senior Forest School practitioner and bushcraft mentor at the School, with support from the head and senior management, has a proven track record of involving all Year 7 pupils with a Forest School experience as well as sessions looking at wood working, woodland management and conservation. The link with the local woodland owners – Joan and Marcus Dixon – has proved to be a beneficial link with excellent community involvement.

Adrian Lloyd, Headteacher at Pinewood, said: “We are absolutely delighted that Pinewood has been granted such a prestigious award. This success gives the staff significant recognition for the work that they do with young people that makes such a difference in their lives.

“I am particularly pleased that we have attained this acknowledgement not through a desire to win national trophies, but through our commitment to enthuse, motivate and inspire young minds in the benefits of woodland and forestry practice. This achievement just strengthens our resolve to further develop our knowledge, skills and adventurous learning approaches, ensuring that Pinewood’s Forest School enriches the lives of our students and community well into the future.”

They received a cheque for £1000 from the RFS and 10 native trees from the Forestry Commission.

Second place went to Alphabet House Day Nursery in Long Eaton, Nottinghamshire.

Susannah Podmore said: “The enthusiasm from the nursery, the woodland owners, parents, and assistants for this Forest School programme was overwhelming. The programme has been featured in Nursery World as an excellent case study for other early years and primary settings.

“With very little funding, this Forest School has been embedded into the whole nursery approach to child-led learning in a woodland setting. We wish the nursery all the best for their future plans to develop another site at the woodland.

Head David Green said: “We are delighted that the hard work, time and passion that all our staff put into our Forest Schools programme have achieved this level of recognition.

“I am personally proud that my nursery has provided our children and their parents with the unique opportunity to engage with the natural world. Using the woodland as our learning resource has enabled them to learn and develop in ways that would not be possible in a conventional setting.

“By forging partnerships with local landowners we have been able to expose our children to the wonders of nature and allow them to make life long connections with the natural world.”

They received a cheque for £500 from the RFS and 10 native trees from the Forestry Commission.

Winning the first ever Certificate of Merit awarded to a School was Spire School, Derby Road, Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

The judges said: “Spire’s Woodland for Wildlife project included a tree planting project and created a woodland walk that has transformed the school field. The young children we spoke to were able to identify the trees planted and talk about the importance of trees and wood.

“The links to the curriculum in maths, literacy, RE and science were displayed in the school and were apparent from the discussions with the teachers. The Forest School programme we saw in action was also inspiring and professionally led.”

Head Jane Garratt said: “We are thrilled to be commended – this will give us the spur to continue improving our provision in terms of working in our developing woodland, with wood and with eco projects. We know that this is the way to go for our curriculum, as the response from the children is so positive.

“It has reminded teachers, who for too long have been exposed to a rigid imposed curriculum, that ‘hands on’ experiential work in a natural environment is the most effective approach to learning, expressing feelings and understanding the world.”

They received 10 native trees from the Forestry Commission. In total nine schools have received trees for winning or being shortlisted in the competition.

Alphabet House Day Nursery, celebrating their Excellence in Forestry, Schools Award

Celebrations for Alphabet House Day Nursery: 
Head David Green and woodland owner Edmund Woodward 
plant a tree with Jack Whitaker from the Royal Forestry 
Society, teachers Mandy Burkey and Jessica Flinders and children joining in.


Spire School wins first ever Certificate of Merit for a school in the RFS Excellence in Forestry competition

Spire Infants School: Having fun and learning in a 
woodland setting. Children from Spire Infant School 
with RFS Schools award judges Susannah Podmore 
and fellow judge Mike Flinn.