Forestry Education and Learning Projects

Pencoed and Ferryside Primary Schools 2015

EiF Schools Award 2015. The judges highlight the best of this year’s record entry.

A record number of schools entered the Excellence in Forestry Schools Award this year. Of the 19 Schools from across Wales that entered their woodland and forestry-based learning into the competition, five were shortlisted for judging. Sue Williams of Natural Resources Wales and Phil Tanner had the enviable task of visiting and judging each of the shortlisted schools.

The town of Pencoed is situated 15 miles from Cardiff in Bridgend and is home to this year’s winner, Pencoed School. The school, attended by 570 pupils from the local community, has its very own woodland planted 24 years ago by students and staff. This provides the school with an excellent resource used to provide learning opportunities not just for the students attending the school but the whole community.

Pencoed’s Headteacher, Ms Sarjeant, has developed an inclusive ethos that sees teaching and learning as an opportunity to engage with and make positive impacts not just for the pupils at the school but their families and the wider community. Leading the school’s engagement programme is local resident Julie Jenkins whose enthusiastic approach to providing outdoor learning opportunities is at the heart of the school’s success.

Pencoed School recognises that Forest School is a process of providing opportunities for learners to develop personally in an outdoor environment and have used this, like many schools, to engage with their students. However, Pencoed have also placed an emphasis on curriculum design centred on the use of the school’s woodland with lessons from all subjects being timetabled into the school’s woodland learning area across all age groups. Examples of maths, science and English sessions run by the school’s two forest school staff or in partnership with the school’s outsourced forest school leader cover the corridor walls of the school.

Pencoed’s work has been supported by a range of local partnerships. The pupils visit the local Rockwool site where they participate in education sessions with NaturalResources Wales staff, providing the opportunity to gain an understanding of the value of local woodland sites. The school’s partnership with Bridgend College saw an excellent example of teaching and learning for all involved when college students delivered forest school sessions to Pencoed pupils.

The proposed school improvement plan could be seen as a cause for concern but the school’s management team see this as an opportunity to develop the school’s outdoor learning resource and at the same time its capacity to provide learning opportunities linked to the school woodland.

In second place was Ferryside V.C.P School. The school is situated at the centre of the seaside village of Ferryside, approximately nine miles from Carmarthen. The school aims to teach children to be totally bilingual, in Welsh and English, by the time they leave primary school to enable them to participate fully in their bilingual community.

At the heart of the school’s work is a partnership formed with a local woodland co-operative. This enables pupils to visit a local woodland that is managed on a system of coppice rotations for the production of charcoal, giving them an excellent opportunity to understand and appreciate woodlands within their local community.

Project work enables the pupils to increase their knowledge of woodlands on a global scale, learning about the value of the world’s forests. However, projects on ash dieback and the wood processing cycle demonstrate the value Ferryside School places on pupils being aware of the importance of trees and wood products within their daily life.

The high number of school entries demonstrates the importance of woodlands to Welsh communities and the economy, and we hope that many of the primary school children will go on to become Future Foresters.