Bridgend County Borough Council has been awarded £400k of Welsh Government funding to create outdoor forest schools in eight primary schools across the county borough.
The funding is part of a larger £2m Community Focused Schools Grant offered by Welsh Government to increase community use of schools. From 2023 to 2025, the funding will support a variety of projects in schools throughout Bridgend County Borough, with establishing forest schools being one of those ventures.
Selected schools to host the outdoor learning provision are across the county borough:
- Archdeacon John Lewis Church in Wales Primary School, Brackla.
- Bettws Primary School and Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Calon Y Cymoedd (shared provision), in the Garw Valley.
- Pȋl Primary School, in Pyle.
- Llangynwyd Primary School, in the Llynfi Valley.
- Ogmore Vale Primary School, in the Ogmore Valley.
- Croesty Primary School, Pencoed.
- Nottage Primary School, Porthcawl.
- Tondu Primary School, in Aberkenfig.
The forest school provision is to be used by the schools, internal local authority organisations, and external community organisations. The aim is to promote outdoor learning and wellbeing, as well as encourage people to spend more time outdoors and experience the benefits of being in the natural world.
The natural environment and learning outdoors play a significant role in the new Curriculum for Wales. Sue Williams, Team Leader for Health, Education and Natural Resources said: “We are thrilled that being outdoors is now recognised as equal to the indoor classroom, and outdoor learning is positioned as a central pedagogy [teaching method] which all settings will engage in.”
The new curriculum covers all learners aged three to 16 and was first implemented in September 2022 for all primary schools, and for Year 7 in some secondary schools. Since September 2023, all Year 7 and 8 pupils are taught through the new curriculum with a continuing roll out each year, until Year 11 are included by 2026.
Cllr Jon Paul Blundell, Cabinet Member for Education, said: “What a wonderful way for our schools to move forward and embrace the new Curriculum for Wales. Research shows how learning outdoors can lead to high levels of wellbeing, confidence and engagement, along with social, emotional and physical development.
“A forest school consultant has met with each of the named schools and is currently working on concept drawings. The consultant will continue to work closely with the schools to plan, establish and develop their grounds to create the forest schools.
“We are very grateful for this Welsh Government funding, enabling us to offer this outdoor provision to our learners and wider communities.”