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In this section I hope to address a range of Frequently Asked Questions.  It is also my hope to shed light on some of the ‘murkier’ areas surrounding Forest School that are often used by others to confuse and bamboozle people.

When training you will invest a lot of personal time, effort and money, especially if you fund yourself.  Unfortunately, the current UK landscape for Forest School is being carved up by individuals and groups vying for control over each other. 

True, anyone can create a group or organisation that has its own vision for Forest School and what it means to be a member of it.  However, if these people want to do this…stick to your membership and do not intrude out beyond it, trying to exert control over others overtly or covertly. 

Please note that whereas organisations like Ofqual, DfE, the HSE etc operate with governmental/legal powers, most of these groups do not have this backing and rely upon others to carry out their bidding for them.  When this occurs, these organisations should be clear about their limitations and how they intend to carry out what they would like to achieve.  Also, despite the social engineering that is employed in certain circumstances, there is no requirement to join these groups.  So again, as some people are happier in a group situation, it is the responsibility of these groups to be honest and to be fit for purpose for their membership.

What is a Qualification?

A lot of people, groups and organisations are fixated with an awarding body, officially known as an Awarding Organisation (AO) To avoid any further confusion let’s look at information from the Ofqual website-
In the UK you apply to Ofqual to become an Awarding Organisation (AO).  Ofqual regulates certain qualifications, end-point assessments and the organisations which offer them. [Ofqual] don’t regulate training courses. The difference between a training course and a qualification is that a qualification:

  • tests someone’s knowledge, skills or understanding of the subject
  • is only awarded to someone who has demonstrated a specified level of attainment
  • awards a certificate to anyone who completes it successfully

Does the qualification have to be registered with Ofqual?

Qualifications, apart from GCSEs, AS or A levels, do not have to be regulated by Ofqual.  However, if you want your qualification to be studied in publicly funded schools and colleges, you will need to be regulated by us.

What do Credits, Levels, GLH and TQT mean?

Sometimes credits, levels, Guided Learning Hours (GLH) and Total Qualification Time (TQT) are used as a comparison tool by individuals and groups in an attempt to show that one course is better than another.  This is not the original intention for these terms.  However, as is often the case, things that are created by knowledgeable others can be mis-interpreted so that they justify the actions of others and their own agenda.  (The following information was released by Jeremy Benson, Posted on: 1 October 2015.  Also, if you follow the hyperlink on his name there is further information from the Ofqual Blog)

Sizing up qualifications

We’ve asked the awarding organisations that we regulate to begin describing the size of their qualifications using some new terminology – Total Qualification Time (TQT). TQT is, essentially, an indication of how long a typical learner might take to study a qualification, including the time spent on their individual study and on assessment. It also includes Guided Learning Hours (GLH), which is the time spent actually being taught.

We know that some learners will study faster or slower than others, so size really is a guide, not an absolute. But we know it’s useful to have an estimate of things like teaching and assessment time, not least for those who plan timetables or who are responsible for funding. It’s also helpful to get an understanding of how long an employee might need to be away from work to study, or knowing as an individual how much time you might need to dedicate to achieving your qualification.

On the level

We’ve been careful to build on what already worked with qualification frameworks, and so the RQF uses the same levels that we are already familiar with: entry 1 to 3 and levels 1 to 8. The RQF maps to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications, as well as to the European Qualifications Framework too, as we know that portability is important to those looking for jobs or seeking to employ people from across the continent.

While we have updated how the levels are described, we have not changed the demand of the levels themselves. The level descriptors are more outcomes-focused now, covering both academic and vocational qualifications, and setting out the ‘skills’ and ‘knowledge and understanding’ that you might typically expect of someone with a qualification at that level.

Qualifications can serve a wide variety of different purposes and assess very different skills and knowledge. So being at the same level, or of similar size, does not make qualifications directly equivalent to one another.
To understand how qualifications might compare, you need to look in more depth, and not just at size and level. To go back to our bookcase analogy, with qualifications as the books, we’d encourage you to take the books off the shelf and flick through the pages, and our online Register of Regulated Qualifications helps you to do this.
We’re currently improving how our register works, and you can test out the prototype and provide feedback to us to help make it even better.

Our intention is that the RQF acts as a simple tool for describing qualifications. We don’t claim it will transform the qualifications landscape, but we do hope it will help people to understand qualifications a little better and to use them more confidently.

How to pick a Trainer?

Although it may come as a surprise to a lot of groups and organisations, since the mid fifteenth century the process known as due diligence has existed.  Despite encouraging people to ask trainers a myriad of questions, no one seems to use the correct term of due diligence.  No matter how it is presented, due diligence generally could look like this (Source: Abridge/adapted from the Health and Safety Executive ©Crown Copyright)

  • what qualifications do the trainers and assessors have?
  • monitoring and quality assurance systems
  • mechanisms for retaining records about the students that comply with the GDPR
  • sufficient quantity of well-maintained equipment
  • the trainer should demonstrate that class sizes are appropriate to addressing the training needs of the individual student or adequately assessing their competence
  • where students have learning or communication difficulties these should be communicated to the trainer who should then make reasonable adjustments to accommodate their learning needs
  • where students have disabilities, trainers should make reasonable adjustments during the period of training, however, at the time of assessment the student maybe required to demonstrate competence in certain practical skills without assistance of any kind
  • relevant syllabus content
  • certification

the student should only be issued with a certificate if they have been assessed as competent through demonstrating satisfactory knowledge, skills and understanding in all aspects of the course
Remember- As the saying goes…’Who watches the watchers?’

If someone is encouraging you to ask questions of others, why not ask them questions too!  Due diligence will also apply to groups and organisations.  When you ask them questions, you should expect a clear, straight forward answer- be wary of those who either do not or cannot answer, try to refer you to someone else instead of them, or give very long, meandering answers that actually do not address what you have asked or just ignore what you have asked.

What about Insurance?

(Source: HISCOX Insurance and GOV.UK)
In the UK nothing should be done without the correct insurance in place.  People get massively confused about the issue of insurance and a lot are mis-led into thinking that everything is alright if they have this type or that type of cover.  The situation is further compounded by people, who are not involved in the insurance business, giving the wrong advice to others.  As a student you should be able to ask your trainer to see a copy of their insurance.  They should be able to show you them and explain why they have those documents.  If they cannot do this, walk away!  Ensuring that the right insurance is in place is your responsibility too, so do it!  You also have to factor in whether you are an employee or an individual.

he main types of insurance to consider are listed below-

Public Liability- Public liability insurance covers you for the cost of a claim made by a member of the public that has suffered injury or property damage as a result of your business or a product it has supplied. This means that it protects you against the cost of compensation to be paid out, as well as the legal expenses incurred by the claims process.

Product Liability
- usually included in public liability and is there to cover you against any claim made in relation to a product that you sell.

Professional Indemnity
- [a business] providing a professional service that can be challenged is vulnerable to a claim of negligence when the advice or service fails to meet a client's expectations (like mis-advice about insurance).

Employers Liability
- Employers Insurance will help you pay compensation if an employee is injured or becomes ill because of the work they do for you.

An example of this current confusion is the issue of being 21 to deliver Forest School sessions.  Having communicated with three organisations linked to this claim, they either pass the responsibility onto one of the others or claim that is due to insurance.

Between the three of them this has now created a potential paradox whereby someone under the age of 21 could do the training, and is apparently covered by their employer’s insurance, but is then unable to deliver sessions until coming of age at 21.  If this is true…why would anyone attend the course and then have to wait?

Obviously, you will need to speak to your individual insurance company, who will check with their underwriters, but I have been assured by my provider that so long as the qualifications and experience are there, 21 is not a requirement.

What you can expect from the Forest School training

Being honest, completing the Forest School units will not turn you into a qualified forester, land manager, eco-warrior, teacher etc…, despite what many say! Forest School training is more of a melting pot where people can bring their relevant skill sets and blend them it into the training to enhance using the outside as a platform. 

Think Ray Mears meets the Curriculum (although some aspects of survival are not the Forest School remit and your trainer should be able to tell which areas these are)!
If you pick the correct trainer, who delivers the right units, you should end up with a skill set that prepares you to take participants outside and educate them in social and academic skills using low and high-risk activities, an enthusiasm for being outside, a platform where existing personal skills and talents could be utilised and a chance to have children re-connect with nature, in the same way that some of us did as youngsters.

However, when you get into your training it is clear to see that additional skills are required to create the total package.  If your trainer does not have the following, and more, at a higher level than you are asked to achieve or is unable to explain why these are pertinent to the course- walk away!

Enhanced DBS
First Aid- as a result of a First Aid assessment and not clever marketing
Food Hygiene - Catering
Manual Handling/H&S
Knowledge of RIDDOR and COSHH

What is a High-Risk Activity?

In general, think of a high-risk activity for Forest School as anything to do with tools, fire and off-the-floor.  The reasoning for this is because it is statistically easier to have an injury that activates a RIDDOR.    This is why it is important for the individual Forest School Leader or Assistant to speak to their insurance company and discuss the Terms and Conditions.  Companies are the people who deal with the public but it is the Underwriters who make the decisions on whether to insure the risk or not (your trainer/organisation should know this)!

Also, from a lot of insurance companies point of view, eating wild edibles is an additional high-risk activity due to the chances of feeding someone else’s child the wrong plant.  If you want to do this, speak to your insurance provider, they are just a phone call away!

Your Forest School training should cover the first three high-risk areas.  If it does not, ask why?  What is the point of a trainer having photographs of these activities on their website if you are not trained by them on how to carry them out.  Let’s cut through the glam of staged photographs and get on with the important, hands-on, practical training and doing so to the best of our ability.




All photos on this page taken by Miss Lauren Moore, official company photographer