Ben aged 8
Ben, aged 6 at the time, was referred to Forest School as his school placement had broken down due to Ben’s unsafe behaviour.
Ben, aged 6 at the time, was referred to Forest School as his school placement had broken down due to Ben’s unsafe behaviour. His school placement had a ratio of 2:1 with him to keep him and others safe. Ben was often physical and verbally abusive when dysregulated and often engaged in behaviour that was highly dangerous, such as climbing onto the school roof. School could no longer meet his increasing needs and at the time of referral Ben was at home and did not attend his school setting. Arrangement was made that the school would bring Ben to Forest School in a taxi two mornings a week and bring him home again.
It was evident from the moment Ben joined us that an outdoor provision was well suited to his needs. A low demand, child-led and physically active environment allowed Ben to settle well. Ben’s emotional dysregulation difficulties were clear from the start with big physical outbursts towards staff and children being a regular occurrence. Positive handling was needed on numerous occasions to keep others safe. Although dangerous behaviour such as climbing was present at the start this very quickly dissipated as he had more freedom physically.
Over the course of his placement our main aim was to build a relationship with Ben where he felt heard, respected and safe. Reflective practice and emotional coaching together was key in aiding these attachments. Mutual respect and trust developed over time allowing Ben to understand consequences of his action but also the benefits to him of being a trusted member of the cohort. He soon began to thrive at Forest School, and with it, his ability to regulate his big emotions.
Ben’s referral was extended by his named school as he was still unable to attend their setting but was progressing well at Forest School. Home life became more complicated for Ben with heavy social service involvement leading the Local Authority and us to make the decision to increase his time with Forest School to four days a week. In addition, his weekly tutoring service that he accessed from the LA was moved to Forest School where he could access it in a more secure setting. His named school were no longer providing transport but instead we had to rely on parents bringing him four days a week. Sessions were being frequently missed and Ben attendance was starting to decline. Eventually transport through the council was arranged and Ben’s attendance improved substantially.
A new specialist setting was found for Ben by the Local Authority where he would be able to attend full-time. The new setting, Forest School and LA devised a transition plan for Ben that was at a pace that was slow enough to ensure the placement did not break down. A combination of staff from his new school attending Forest School and Forest School staff attending his school allowed Ben to feel safe and secure and held in mind by all that work with him. Ben has successfully transitioned to his new placement where he is thriving.
Ziyad aged 7
Ziyad was referred to Forest School when he was in year 1 because he was extremely quiet in class and lacked self-confidence.
Ziyad was referred to Forest School when he was in year 1 because he was extremely quiet in class and lacked self-confidence. Ziyad joined us for a Forest School session one afternoon a week with seven other children for two hours.
As expected, Ziyad was a very quiet boy when he first started attending Forest School. He would not engage in activities, did not explore the forest with the others and would communicate to the adults nonverbally. Ziyad was very conscious about getting dirty, wet or picking up anything in the forest. He would not attempt anything that he deemed unsafe, such as climbing trees, swinging in the hammock or using Forest School tools.
Forest School is completely child-led and children do not have to do the activities but are rather encouraged to do so when they are ready. Ziyad spent a few months observing everyone and slowly over time decided to join in. Supporting Ziyad and praising small achievements started to give him the confidence to try new things.
Ziyad was with us for 4 years before graduating from Forest School. By the time he left, he was laughing and joking with everyone in the group. He was confident to speak up in front of the whole group and share what he had been doing during the session but most importantly, he was covered in mud from where he had been running around exploring the forest with his friends.
Sam aged 10
Sam was originally referred to us for low self-esteem, confidence and a lack of focus in class.
Sam was initially referred to Forest School in year 4 where he joined a weekly session consisting of 8 children. Sam was originally referred to us for low self-esteem, confidence and a lack of focus in class.
Sam was a well liked member of the group. Peers and staff alike thought highly of Sam as he was kind-hearted, avoided conflict and was very empathic. During his first few years in Forest school Sam made huge leaps in his confidence and self worth. Unfortunately, Sam’s last year of Primary proved very hard for him due to circumstance at home and we saw substantial setbacks in his progress. Sam started to spend a lot more time away from the group and increasingly more time on his own. In his Forest School sessions we would note that he would spend the majority of time just wandering around the site, not really engaging with peers or staff. This was a vast contrast to the Sam we knew who was always very chatty and positive. His mood had deteriorated, presenting quite low and sad with occasional emotional outbursts requiring 1:1 support away from the group. It was this notable change in his behaviour that we felt the need for more 1:1 support.
Sam’s 1:1 sessions were completely child-led, with Sam often choosing to whittle sticks in the fire circle whilst chatting to one of the members of staff. This provided a great opportunity for Sam to talk about whatever was on his mind in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Sam became very open to staff about what was going on at home and how it was making him feel. These conversations proved incredibly useful as we were able to to talk through coping strategies with Sam and reinforce the message to Sam to talk to a trusted adult when he is struggling.
John, aged 9
John was referred to us in April 2019 due to his aggressive violent behaviour in class.
John was referred to us in April 2019 due to his aggressive violent behaviour in class. Originally, John took part in an organised session for two hours a week with a group of 7 other children as well as a 1:1 session once a week for an hour. In Autumn 2020 John’s behaviour deteriorated in class to the point he was at risk of exclusion.
Past trauma and attachment difficulties have contributed significantly to John’s emotion regulation difficulties. Unpredictable, aggressive and controlling behaviour dominated, leading to peer rejection and school refusal. Underneath the externalising behaviour, John’s mood would be low at times with big emotional outbursts expressed to trusted adults. A complicated home environment contributed to John’s fragile mental health and the school was finding it increasingly hard to cope with his needs.
In the Autumn of 2020 the SLT and FSUK devised a temporary plan to place him in Forest School every morning as an alternative provision. This involved John staying in the Forest for three hours a day with his TA on a carousel timetable that included academic sessions but primarily emotional/social coaching. A huge input of nurture by three members of staff over the course of 8 months allowed trusted relationships to be formed in a safe environment where John could express himself without the risk of being judged. An emotional toolkit that was suited to John’s needs was introduced alongside positive rewards and sechedueled time with his peers.
Over a set period of time John was slowly reintroduced to the classroom with his TA and is able to take part in some academic activities. There have been huge improvements made in his aggressive behaviour and John is now able to play with others without hurting or offending them. Emotional outbursts are still seen but far less than before and John is now able to use his emotional toolkit to help him through difficult times. John still comes to the forest at the end of every day to reflect on his day and stay connected to his trusted adults. We were were instrumental in as assisting the family and current mainstream placement in the transition of John into a specialist SEMH setting out of borough.