Many parents who visit Wandsworth Prep ask why our Forest School programme plays such a central role in our curriculum. As an independent school preparing children for competitive examinations at 11, what, exactly, is the contribution of Forest School in ensuring success in these crucial assessments?
Underpinning our approach to teaching and learning at Wandsworth Prep is the belief that, the better the start, the stronger the finish. We pride ourselves on ensuring that our children enjoy a curriculum that is broad, balanced and exciting. We strive to achieve high academic standards for all children and believe this is best achieved through teaching that is engaging, innovative and personalised to children’s needs. Ultimately, we aim to ignite a life- long love of learning within each child and provide a platform for a lifetime of sustained achievement and success.
Research undertaken to inform the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland concluded that: Outdoors is often a more effective place to learn than indoors. Such experiences, from early years to adulthood, will help (our) children and young people to enter education, employment or training with transferable skills required to meet the opportunities and challenges of a rapidly changing world.
Specifically, the Forest School approach aims to develop independence, build self-confidence and resilience. It allows opportunities for the acquisition of physical skills, co-ordination, dexterity and strength. It develops an understanding of risk and encourages problem solving and team work.
Our children learn not only to read, write and add up but to ask questions, problem solve and think strategically. In recent years, increasing emphasis has been placed on reasoning and problem solving tasks in entrance exams to a wide range of schools at 11+. At Wandsworth Prep, we want our children to succeed but, we do not want the journey to be stressful. A continued emphasis on ensuring that our children are challenged in fun and exciting ways with ample opportunity to work effectively as part of a group, investigate, explore and develop analytical and independent thought, will allow them to approach assessment tasks at the age of 11 with confidence and enjoy success.
Whilst higher education may be some years away for our children, we are mindful that we need to prepare them for life far beyond merely the start of their secondary years; we need to go beyond this. Professor Tim Birkhead, a senior admissions tutor at the University of Sheffield, recently wrote:
‘The most striking thing about some undergraduates is their dependence, their lack of initiative and their reluctance to think for themselves. New undergraduates seem to expect to be told what to do at every stage. It is almost as though the spoon-feeding-and-teaching-to-the-test culture at school has drained them of independent thought.’
Bridget Saul - Headteacher