Kirklees Forest School Network Launch – How Did It Go?

July 6, 2017

in Events, Kirklees Forest School Network, News

Forest school networkSummary of the Evening

Thank you to everyone who came to our Kirklees Forest School Network launch on 10th May at Beaumont Park or who expressed an interest in finding out more.  The event went really well, with around 50 people attending (including representatives from Kirklees Council, Friends of Beaumont Park, and Pennine Prospects who came to support us) and apologies from another 10-15 who couldn’t make it, and we had an overwhelmingly positive response to our ideas and proposals.

Kirklees Council

After tea, coffee, cakes, and introductions, the meeting started with Ruth Dodds and Simon Pedley, Volunteer Co-ordinators from Kirklees Council telling us a bit about the new Play Strategy and Consultation.  They explained that the Council want to move away from formal playgrounds and structured activity and encourage more diverse, varied and creative play that supports child development, exploration, risk taking and choices.  They see Forest School and potentially the Network as being a key part of this strategy and encouraging people to get outside and make use of local parks, green spaces and facilities.

The draft Play Strategy is now out for consultation – you can download it here:Ruth Dodds


and you have until October Half-Term to comment, engage and contribute.

The Volunteer Co-ordinators will be our key contacts for identifying local sites that we can use for Forest School activities, overseeing access and management, and identifying resources that can be used.  They may also be able to introduce us to other local groups and initiatives.  Simon brought a map of Kirklees on which had plotted all the schools and Council-owned land within walking distance of them. You can access the map here:


Some of the co-ordinators are Forest School trained.

There are 4 Volunteer Co-ordinators covering Kirklees.  These are:

  1. Ruth Dodds, Huddersfield –, 07792 392932
  2. Andy Goff, Dewsbury and Mirfield (Simon Pedley has now left the Council) –, 07964 134645
  3. Patrick Crowley, Batley and Spen –,  07581 196179
  4. Andy Wickham, Rural –,  07773 386550

A map showing the areas that they cover is available here – Vol Coords Map

The Volunteer Co-ordinators have also been involved in helping set up Natural Kirklees, negotiate public liability insurance for community groups working on Kirklees-owned spaces, and set up 2 toolshare schemes. (1 tool store is in Beaumont Park, Huddersfield and the other is in Wilton Park, Batley.)  There is the option in the future for our Network to be involved in Natural Kirklees, and perhaps have our own kit share scheme and collective buying power for other things we need (such as training or insurance).

Lisa Holmes, Nature’s Footprints

Lisa talked briefly about Nature’s Footprints’ involvement and why we’ve taken the initiative to try and start a network.

She explained that members of our team had been involved in discussions about a network locally for a number of years and so when an opportunity came up we decided to give it a go.  She said that we already had a good working relationship with the Council through working with Youth Services, local Councillors and Parks and Greenspaces. She said that Andy Goff (now one of the 4 Volunteer Co-ordinators) who had been working on some of the Council’s new strategies and initiatives around green spaces was doing accredited Forest School training with us and said that a network could potentially help him with some of his objectives and that he may have some money available to help kick-start something.

She explained that Natures Footprints is a not-for-profit social enterprise (working with children young people and families in deprived areas of Huddersfield) offering Forest School, Outdoor Learning, Nurture Groups and training and that we are probably one of the biggest, most established and experienced Forest Schools in Kirklees.  In addition, we only use Council-owned public spaces for our Forest School activities.  She said that we had a large team (of up to 20 practitioners) and therefore perhaps had more capacity to manage and co-ordinate things locally.  She also said that because we are involved in other organisations and initiatives both locally and nationally, including:

  • the Forest School Association
  • Third Sector Leaders Kirklees
  • Locala and the new Healthy Child Programme/Thriving Kirklees
  • new Council initiatives such as Early Intervention Hubs and Schools as Learning and Community Hubs
  • Volunteering Kirklees

that we’d be in a position to pass on relevant information about new developments and changes and how that bigger picture would affect us.

She also talked about our MD, Jo Liversidge and that fact that she was one of the pioneers of Forest School locally, that she had lots of contacts, knowledge and experience of the Forest School world and was the only Level 4 Practitioner in Kirklees offering accredited training (and that she had probably trained most people in the room.)

She mentioned that we’d been in touch with the Bradford Forest School Network and had talked to them about visiting to find out how they do things, and that we didn’t want to be in competition with the new West Yorkshire Teaching Alliance Forest School and Outdoor Learning Network and that we had talked to Bethany (present) and Sarah about how we could complement each other and work together.  We have agreed to keep talking.

Some of the questions she thought that we might want to try and address as a network were:

  • How can we build, support and promote Forest School in Kirklees?
  • Can we work together smarter to share kit, resources and funding?
  • Can we work smarter to plug gaps in training, support, staffing and volunteers?
  • How can we help practitioners meet the new challenges of budget and funding cuts, and local restructuring?
  • What else do we need to be involved in (such as Natural Kirklees or the FSA)?

Jo Liversidge, Nature’s Footprints

Jo then spoke about how we and the Council saw the Network working and what we thought would be involved.  The aim of the Network is to promote Forest School in Kirklees, support and develop local Practitioners, and partner with the Council to do that.

She talked about how in the the current climate of funding and budget cuts it was even more important that we work together and find new ways of doing things and supporting each other.

She suggested a membership fee of £60 per year (and asked for feedback on that – most people felt that it was good value for money) which would include:

  1. Access to up to 3 CPD events per year (potentially 1 evening, 1 daytime and 1 weekend session).
  2. Visits to different Council-owned sites to look at how they can be used
  3. Access to Council-owned sites for Forest School activities and resources (subject to verification of relevant qualifications, policies and insurance by Nature’s Footprints.  This would potentially meant that Practitioners wouldn’t have to individually go through the booking and verification process with the Council every time they wanted to use a site.)
  4. Options for working parties, developing site management plans and learning more about woodland management and practical skills (via the Council and partner organisations)
  5. Access to other relevant training, development, mentoring and CPD at a discount price
  6. Options for using group buying power to get deals on insurance, kit, and specialist training such as Outdoor Food Hygiene, bushcraft etc

She talked about wanting to keep the membership fee affordable, so that it would be still affordable for both individuals and schools and organisations, in light of diminishing budgets, but that we needed to make some charge to cover admin costs and potentially give us a budget for network activities.  She talked about us making use of local people, resources and expertise first, for example using Alan Scully from Be More Outdoors in Slaithwaite to run a session on storytelling, and paying him a fair rate for his time.

There were questions about group/school membership, about membership for volunteers, and whether non-qualified practitioners/Outdoor Learning Practitioners could join.  Plus, whether sites could be used for non-Forest School activities and whether there were ways for non-Forest School people to demonstrate competence and gain access to sites.  (The solution may be to limit activities such as fires and tool use to qualified Forest School practitioners with relevant paperwork).  Some people commented about issues around not having enough kit and not having access to storage.  People felt that it would be useful to have a kit share scheme (similar to the tool share scheme that Natural Kirklees have started.) People were interested in CPD including help with applying for funding and finding opportunities.  There was a question about whether we may be able to arrange access to minibuses or other transport to take get our groups to different Council-owned sites.

Jo felt that there were still some conversations to be had and that some things still needed to be discussed and clarified with the Council.

Andy Goff from Kirklees Council invited us to have a stand at a charity event in Greenhead Park in the Summer to launch/promote the Network to the public and promote members’ activities in local parks and green spaces. See for further 14039931_1386208624726068_1312491193421591197_n-1details.

The meeting ended with questions, feedback and the opportunity to fill in a questionnaire (if you didn’t fill one in on the night, you can find the questionnaire here, and see the results here), followed by a visit to the dedicated Forest School site at Beaumont Park, for those who were interested.







Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: