This piece of work, preparing your handbook is the key document that helps you, your school or organisation to meet the Health and Safety requirements of running a Forest School. It also is your ‘go to’ documents that show the external world how you are looking after the children and the procedures that are in place to support the Forest School activities.
Before you start delivering any Forest School Programme, you must have completed your Handbook, along with your risk benefit assessments. Show this to your ‘mentor/delivery assessor’ to read over and give you feedback. Like with all health and safety, it is only relevant if you are doing what you say you do, so reflect and up date it as things change. It’s common practice to review this document on a yearly basis.
In supporting documents, there are a number of examples of Handbook overviews that provide you with common headings that are found in any Handbook – you can be as creative as you like, as long as the information is in there! In Forest School, we often work in teams or have volunteers. Make sure that everyone has read this document and is comfortable and understands what your policies and procedures are before you begin running the sessions.
A good Handbook, when put to action, provides a good container for any group session and actually enables you to take more measured risks and feel confident that you know why and what you are doing, particularly in an emergency. As a professional, with a recognised qualification, you are expected to have high standards and to maintain this throughout your provision of Forest School.
Anyone who works with young people has a duty of care to look after them the best that they can, so it is of utmost importance that you engage with this fully, with the knowledge that your practice is safe and competent.