Forest School and Outdoor Education is a valuable and exciting part of our Prep School curriculum. We have seen the benefits that the outdoor environment provides and we know that it develops our pupils’ physical, sensory, creative and leadership skills.

Our site lends itself to this way of teaching, with 84 acres of exploring to do. The woods, fields and gardens at the school are always changing with the seasons and provide us with the most unique and vibrant classrooms to learn in. The Forest School is a well-developed and successful programme here at Ipswich High School and works alongside survival skills, orienteering and eco-schools to provide the pupils with a wealth of knowledge about their natural world and how we can gain knowledge from and protect it. It provides our pupils with opportunities to take calculated risks, work together, communicate and listen to one another; all skills essential for their future.

Recently I was looking at how we can extend our Outdoor Education provision and came across the idea of introducing ‘Beach Schools’. The view from my office is the inspirational River Orwell, which leads down past Pin Mill to Felixstowe and Shotley. We also have Waldringfield, Nacton, Alton Water, Woodbridge, Dunwich and many more shorelines, banks and beaches on our doorstep all waiting to be explored.

Beach Schools are a relatively new concept, stemming from the success of the Forest School initiative, therefore an ideal addition for us considering our location, ethos and the benefits it provides. Most of the existing Beach Schools can be found on the South coast of England, but with 11,000 miles of coastline in the British Isles the opportunities are endless.

Many of the Forest School skills, such as making shelters using appropriate knots and resources, fire lighting and cooking are covered but in a different location.

We will then add, for example, tidal forecasts, seasons and tides to the syllabus alongside the pastoral elements of developing emotional intelligence, social skills and developing effective reflective processes. The syllabus will range from playing and exploring on the sand and rocks, to looking at the sustainable management of marine beach ecosystems. The breadth and differentiation is endless, with many of the objectives being covered through child-led learning.

In recent years we have all become aware of the hidden potential of the outdoors and the demand for more outdoor educational experiences is higher than it has been for over half a century. Beach schools, like Forest Schools, are not just operational during good weather. In all weather, as long as it is assessed as safe, the children will wear appropriate clothing and enjoy the sessions. That is the beauty of outdoor learning; the weather and seasons change the perspective and introduce new and exciting skills for pupils to learn and observe.

I start my Beach School training at Easter and we are hoping to introduce it to the children early in the Autumn Term. I am looking forward to seeing the children’s learning develop in another outdoor location. Many of the children who are shy and lack confidence in the classroom are completely different in the outdoors and their self-esteem can really be boosted. It also encourages children to develop their senses and to think about problems in a different way.

I look forward to bringing you more information and update you on the progress of Beach Schools as we embark on this journey in the next academic year. I’m sure the children will enjoy the new locations and their experiences will really bring their learning to life.

By Eileen Fisher, Head of Prep School