I have been fortunate to have worked for the past 12 years as the clinical…
Options Higford are proud to offer a curriculum that goes beyond the classroom, helping the people we support to develop social, emotional and life skills, as well as increasing their confidence and giving them an opportunity to be a part of exciting and challenging activities that extend their educational experiences.
Samantha Carswell, Senior Teacher at Options Higford, alongside James Wild, Sara Brunsdon and the Education Team have led the Forest Schools initiative, an outdoor facility developed by the staff and students which focuses on the benefits of learning within the great outdoors.
Created using materials that have been freely available and with the funds made from the Post 16 students’ Tuck Shop, the Forest School is located within Higford’s extensive grounds and offers a range of activities including using tools, safe use of fires, building shelters, new sensory experiences and more.
The planned and structured tasks cater for students’ needs for a predictable structure and understanding of expectations, whilst the activities have enabled development of abilities which will have lifelong relevance such as teamwork, communication, managing risk and problem solving.
A weekly visit to a local care farm also takes place, where students engage in looking after animals and using tools to make items for the farm and the Forest School.
The impact and progress of the project is evidenced across the school day, not just within the Forest School sessions. Improved confidence, self-esteem, problem solving, social skills and independence are all relevant transferable skills which will support students across the curriculum and beyond school life.
Many of the students work in 1:1 classrooms due to their complex autism and behavioural needs but the Forest School has allowed them to interact with peers in a space where they feel more comfortable due to clear boundaries and expectations whilst providing enough space for them to be able to move away, reducing the pressure of interaction.
The benefits to the students at Higford School have been observed by many external agencies including the NAS Autism Accreditation Team, Social Workers, Local Authorities and OFSTED as well as Head Teachers within the group and members of the board.
The positive feedback from these professionals has led to Higford now working with other schools within the group to support the implementation of Forest Schools.