A PRIMARY school in Oxford is reaping the rewards of being a ‘Forest School’.

The average school day is different for pupils at Cutteslowe Primary School, with children encouraged to get muddy, explore woods and spend time with animals.

Forest School status sees schools get involved in outdoor activities under umbrella organisation, the Forest School Association.

Its roots stem from Scandinavia, before the idea arrived in the UK in 1993.

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At Cutteslowe, the school believes that animals can help socialise children and increase verbal skills.

Becki Huth, Forest School leader at Cutteslowe, said: “Animals not only give social and emotional support but also cognitive language skills support to children.

“The simple presence of an animal provides verbal stimulus to help a child practice talking and socialising with another being.”

Pupils also go pond dipping, which Mrs Huth said helps children develop a greater appreciation for biodiversity and a greater understanding of how local ecosystems work.

Oxford Mail:

Students are also encouraged to explore the school’s wooded areas.

The school believes this has a variety of benefits, including: better motivation and concentration; improved language, communication and social skills; enhanced physical skills (more stamina, improved balance, and co-ordination); appreciation of natural surroundings; and new confidence and self-esteem.

The school also encourages pupils to learn about fire safety during supervised sessions.

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Mrs Huth explained: “Children need first-hand experiences to know how to conduct themselves around fire.

“They also need to know that it can be seriously dangerous to life.

“Fire is great for STEM learning (science, technology, engineering and maths), helping children to understand the life-preserving and other qualities of this natural element in terms of heat, light and cooking.”

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Inside the classroom, it’s no surprise the environment is a strong focus at Cutteslowe.

Children learn to make ‘planet-friendly’ choices, such as recycling, upcycling and switching off lights.

Mrs Huth said: “We believe at Cutteslowe as children grow and become a part of the wider community, they crave to be seen – who they are, what they are learning, what they do well, and what’s unique about them.

“Our outdoor classroom encourages our children to go outdoors in all weathers, which encourages skills such as problem solving and negotiating risk.

“In our current society, opportunities for children to access the natural environment are diminishing, children are spending less time outside due to concerns over safety, traffic, crime, and parental worries.

“We feel that Cutteslowe offers a safe and unique setting so children can grow from little acorns into mighty oaks.”