Beccles Forest Schools

We are a Community Interest Company formed of a group of professionals and volunteers, aiming to make Forest School accessible to the community of Beccles.

Beccles Forest Schools is very much learner-centred in its approach, so specific activities will be dependent upon the interests of the attendees.

Generally, though, we will be den-building, tree-climbing, rope-swinging, bug-hunting, mud-kitchen-ing, puddle-splashing, foraging (for food, medicine, construction and craft), camp-fire cooking and exploring tool use, to allow for creativity using natural materials.

'Risk-Benefit'

At Forest School we talk a lot about ‘risk-benefit’.

We offer attendees supported opportunities to assess the benefits and possible risks of a range of activities. We want children, young people and adults to be able to learn about and reap the benefits of fire, tool-use, climbing and foraging, but also to be aware of and know how to reduce and protect themselves from the risks. We openly discuss this with them and work together to find ways to reap the benefits while remaining safe.

We also aim, over time, to give children and young people the autonomy to make independent decisions about the risks they may choose to take. In this way, they learn about their own strengths and limitations, and develop a deeper understanding of and respect for the natural world around them.

Supervision

Our policy is to run to a minimum ratio of 1 adult to every 5 children. Because of the nature of Forest School, we aim to allow children and young people a certain degree of autonomy and, from the very first session, we place a very clear emphasis on trust.
As the children and young people within the group develop their skills and learn to trust themselves, us and each other, and earn the trust which we ultimately aim to give them, we gradually increase these levels of autonomy. This gives children and young people the sense of ‘freedom’ needed for uninhibited exploration, experiential learning, confidence-building and the development of healthy levels of self esteem.
This approach also allows for us to be easily available to them should our direct interaction be requested, or should we observe that we need to intervene. Even though we may not continuously be interacting with your child directly, they will always be clearly visible to, and under subtle observation of, a Forest School adult. We continuously observe and assess in order to ensure your child is happy and safe, and to scaffold their learning.

Safety at Beccles Forest Schools

All sessions are led by a suitably qualified Forest School Leader. All staff, including volunteers, are DBS checked- or risk-assessed and supervised until they are DBS checked. There is always a qualified First Aider on site.
We are based on the north side of Beccles Common, on an area of land exclusively for Forest School use. Please see the What’s On page for details of current programmes. We also work with- and in- local schools and nurseries. Any questions, please do not hesitate to ask!
There are 6 key safety rules we expect attendees to follow at Beccles Forest Schools:
  • Welfare: Always bring and wear appropriate clothing
  • Climbing: Always work with an adult to check trees and ropes before climbing, and check you have 3 points of contact
  • Tools: Only use sharp tools in the tool area unless the Forest School Leader or Assistant says otherwise; always do tool work with the Forest School Leader or Assistant until they say that you can work independently
  • Fire: Always walk around the outside of the fire area unless the Forest School Leader or Assistant invites you in
  • Foraging: Never put anything in your mouth or on your skin until you have checked with Forest School Leader or Assistant
  • Boundaries: Respect personal, physical and site boundaries
We run a range of activities and play various games to stress the importance of and reasoning behind these rules on a regular basis, in order to ensure that attendees understand our expectations. These rules are essential to safety in the Forest School context. If an attendee cannot follow these rules, they may be asked to leave the group. Obviously we want to avoid this, so it is of great help to us if you can also re-enforce these rules at home with your children.

Meet the Team

Po Midwinter

Co-Director, Forest School Manager, SENDCo & DSL

Po, Co-Director and Forest School Manager, brings an incredible energy to our team, which rubs off on children and grown-ups alike. She has completed her Level 3 Forest School Leader qualification, has heaps of experience working in outdoor education and spent 12 years in secondary school drama teaching and running her own theatre company (so it is entirely logical that she is often found being overly-dramatic in the woods). Her favourite things at Forest School include when the children want to play a game together and she gets to join in, doing the wolf howl and hearing it echo across the common, and finding very tiny insects and watching children make friends with them. When she grows up she’d like her own mud kitchen and a saw horse.

Rach Whitwood

Co-Director and Administrative Manager

Rach, Co-Director and Administrative Manager, is usually found in her bobble hat with a large flask of tea, beavering away behind the scenes. She does a marvellous job at keeping the organisation running smoothly. Her laptop has more bramble-scars than most. As well as having invaluable technical knowledge and a knack for organisation, Rach also has an interesting background in progressive education, advocating for child-led approaches that prioritise natural resources and spaces. Rach is a parent of two cheeky (and often very muddy) children, and is very involved in networking for parents who are part of our Home Education community.

Lou Walker

Co-Director

Lou Walker is Co-Director of Beccles Forest Schools. She has a beautifully calm presence, and a deep, spiritual connection with nature and our community, which is always so inspiring for those around her and has played a huge role in establishing our vision at Beccles Forest Schools. Since beginning her time with us, Lou has dedicated a lot of her energy to sourcing funding opportunities for young people and older community members, allowing her to set up our Youth Group and Wild Wellbeing sessions. These groups have had a massively positive impact on so many people, and we regularly receive heartfelt messages to pass to her, thanking her for all she does.

Lucy Butcher

Early Years Deputy Manager, Forest School Leader & ADSL

Lucy is our Early Years Deputy Manager and a Level 3 Forest School Leader. Her incredible respect for children’s autonomy and her deep connection with The Earth is a major part of what makes our Early Years provision so blooming incredible. Lucy is a qualified and highly experienced member of our team. She is a truly excellent team leader and ensures all new staff and children settle into the Early Years setting, working sensitively with families to ensure that we meet the needs of all parents and carers, as well as the children. Children gravitate to her energy and enthusiasm, and the deep, enduring relationships she forms with children come very naturally. Lucy can also be found on adventures with the older children in our Home Ed group.

Abi Robinson

Forest School Leader
Abi is a Level 3 Forest School Leader, easily spotted by her beautiful smile and amazing jazzy leggings. Her background includes setting up and running her own Folly Forest school, plus experience working in outdoor education and setting up Kaleidoscope Home Ed group. She is currently supporting a group through the John Muir award at Pathways. She’s mostly to be found by the fire, her happy place, cooking up a storm with whoever wants to help – this can sometimes be the entire group! She is huge fun, fantastically organised and a very good listener, and seems to magic up anything needed with minimum fuss. Her real skill lies with the 1:1 clients, who she builds and fosters amazing relationships with, and this is her real Forest School passion.

Kat Tye

Forest School Leader
Kat is a qualified level 3 Forest School Leader and experienced outdoor educator with 15 years experience in her tool kit. She loves nothing more than seeing children, young people and adults alike spending quality time in nature, taking time to look at things closely. She enjoys the sound of laughter and fun but most of all enjoys storytelling around a cosy fire. She can be often be found stomping in a muddy puddle or basking in the sun amongst the wild flowers. In the past, Kat set up and run a Home Ed Forest School called ‘Hawthorns’, has coordinated children’s areas at festivals and has worked alongside SEN groups.

Maisie Horne

Early Years Practitioner
Maisie may be our youngest practitioner, but she is one of our most experienced members of staff. She attended Forest School as a child and has been part of the Forest School community for many years, as is clearly demonstrated in her incredible Forest School knowledge and skills. We have all learned a lot from Maisie and she is so often our go-to for all things nature. She is a natural and great role model, and she has an incredibly deep understanding of how to combine the Early Years Foundation Stage with Forest School. Maisie has recently completed her apprenticeship in Early Years Education- we are thrilled that she was able to work with us for the practical element of this- and will soon be qualified as Early Years Level 3. She has a cuddly lap and loves to tell a good story, which is appreciated by everyone, old and young!

Tommy DLB

Early Years Practitioner
Tommy is a wholly warm, approachable person with incredible empathy, an in-depth understanding of child development and a natural inclination to allow children to play freely. Like many of our staff, Tommy joined the team having enjoyed being outdoors and having fun at the Stay and Play sessions with his young son, and falling so easily into the Forest School ethos. Before coming back to England, Tommy taught English as a foreign language in Vietnam and also managed a team of English teachers. Prior to this he was a Teaching Assistant in a primary school in London and also supported children with special educational needs. The children love having Tommy to imprison in their dragon den and dungeons, and, on a better day, he gets to be a fireman in the well-established fire station that the children have created in The Grey Willows.

Mike Button

Forest School Assistant
Mike is one of our Forest School Assistants, often working with our schools groups and young people. He is our walking jukebox; he and Po are often found bursting out into 90s dance and indie anthems as they set up- and often when the young people are there too, to their embarrassment. Mike is fantastic with those who identify as neurodiverse and holds the space around the fire with ease and aplomb. He has an impressive toolkit and often appears with interesting objects, thanks to his other job as an antique dealer. Mike knows everyone and everyone knows Mike. He can walk up a tree at speed! He’s a gentle soul and someone we are thrilled to work with.

Alice Eastaugh

Forest School Assistant
Alice has a warmth about her that people are drawn to. She always arrives with an amazing thing; sometimes this is a story, a natural item she found in the week previous, or an idea. Her beautiful smile beams across the circle and the work she has been doing with one of our primary school groups is absolutely wonderful. She is fluent in French and always communicates so well with children of all ages, making them feel valued and heard at all times. If a job needs doing then Alice has probably already done it. She’s a fantastic team player and is also training for her Level 3 Forest School Leader qualification.

Anne Emerson-Smith

Forest School Assistant
The incredible Anne Emerson-Smith has been a central part of Beccles Forest Schools for many years, setting up our OUTSTANDING Early Years service. Though she has now resigned her official roles, we are still lucky that she brings her wonderful energy to our sessions every now and then- we LOVE having her with us when she can. Anne has heaps of amazing qualifications and experience around childcare, education and Forest School, and she is a bloomin’ fabulous human being to boot.

Dorcas Franklyn-Bray

Forest School Assistant
Dorcas is a truly wonderful human being. She has a wonderful love and knowledge of the natural world, which has been so beneficial for us all in our Forest School journeys. Notably, Dorcas provided 2 whole carrier bags of pond plants that have sprung to life in the pond, dug in by the youth group with fabulous results! Dorcas has a beautiful energy about her. She is warm and genuine, and is incredibly nurturing to the children and young people in our sessions- and to us adults too!

Jo Masterson

Forest School Assistant
Jo is an incredible member of our staff team. She’s a qualified children’s yoga teacher, which brings some wonderful opportunities to the sessions she works in. As well as working with us, Jo also works at a local rural school and loves spending time in the woods with her family and their puppy. She is passionate about children’s well-being and adores seeing the impact that Forest School has on their self-esteem. Jo has been connected with Beccles Forest Schools for a very long time and it will always hold a special place in her heart as her son benefited greatly from his time spent on the magical meadow.

Info & Policies

Beccles Forest Schools Handbook

Our ‘Beccles Forest Schools Handbook’ provides a detailed overview of our organisation, including our vision and policies current as of the time of last update, and is available to view at the following link: Beccles Forest Schools Handbook

Forest School Kindergarten Info Pack

Our Forest School Kindergarten Info Pack contains a lot of information about our incredible Early Years provision, and will give you a good idea of what we are all about. It is available to view at the following link: Forest School Kindergarten Info Pack

Latest Ofsted Inspection Report

We are thrilled to have been rated as OUTSTANDING by Ofsted in May 2023. The inspection report can be found here: Beccles Forest Schools: Ofsted Inspection Report

Privacy Notice

Our Privacy Notice outlines how we handle your data. It is available to view at the following link: Privacy Notice (Attendees and Families)

Terms and Conditions of Attendance

Our Terms and Conditions of Attendance outlines the consents required for signing up to sessions at Beccles Forest Schools- this document is provided to you when you sign up via Bookwhen. It is available to view at the following link: Terms and Conditions of Attendance

Policies

Please see below for links to our full list of policies:

Absence Policy

Accident, Injury and First Aid Policy

Behaviour Policy

Biological Toilets and Composting Systems Policy

Bookings Policy

British Values Policy

Children’s Records Policy

Confidentiality and Client Access to Records Policy

Early Years Learning and Development Policy

Ecological Impact Policy

Equality and Inclusion Policy

Extreme Weather Policy

Fire Safety and Evacuation Policy

Food Hygiene Policy

Forest Schools Activities Risk Assessment Policy

Gifted and Talented Policy

Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures Policy

Health and Medication Policy

Health, Illness and Infection Control Policy

Induction Policy

Information Sharing Policy

Manual Handling Policy

Missing Persons Policy

Online Safety Policy

Parental Involvement Policy

Planning and Observation Policy

Play Policy

Prevent Duty Policy

Ratios and Supervision of Children Policy

Retention of Records Grid

Risk Assessment and Safety of Premises Policy

Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy

Safer Recruitment Policy

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Policy

Staff Code of Conduct Policy

Staff Training and Professional Development Policy

Student and Apprenticeship Policy

Suggestions, Concerns and Complaints Policy

Supervision of Staff Policy

The Role of the Key Person and Settling In Policy

Transfer of Records to School Policy

Whistleblowing Policy

Locations

The Wild Meadow

Beccles Forest Schools & Learning in Nature CIC
The Wild Meadow
Marsh 49
Beccles Common
Beccles
NR34 9BX

How to find us:

There is public parking at the end of Common Lane North (behind B&M, off George Westwood Way). Walk to the very end of Common Lane North and cross the railway at the crossing. Cross the cattle-grid onto the common. Follow the grassy path to the left past the allotments. Look out for the Beccles Forest School logo on the next gate to your left. We will meet you here at the beginning of each session.