Frequently Asked Questions – Level 3 Certificate for Forest School Leaders

Circle of Life Rediscovery from the UK offers OCN Level 3 Certificate for Forest School Leaders in the Republic of Ireland and around the world.

Who are the trainers?
Our training team includes Marina Robb (Circle of Life Rediscovery) from the UK, Ciara Hinksman (Forest School Ireland), Lucy Bell (Growing Wild) and Lucy O’Hagan (Wild Awake) from Ireland.

We are all qualified Forest School Leaders with backgrounds in teaching, nature connection, ancestral skills, horticulture and woodland management.  We have together over 40 year’s experience working outdoors and across different ages and backgrounds. 

Marina is author of the popular, ‘Learning with Nature: A how-to guide to inspiring children through games and activities’.

Who is the training for? 

Our trainee’s come from a wide range of backgrounds including teaching, outdoor/nature/bushcraft education, organisations who work with young people, or  with challenging and vulnerable backgrounds.  Trainee’s need to be over 21 years old and it’s preferable to have two years’ experience working with young people.

Why do we support this approach?

There is a growing understanding of the importance of play and the outdoors for children’s health and well-being and capacity to learn.   Research into brain science reinforces how exploration and taking risks in the outdoors and during childhood,  grows neural networks that support us into adulthood.  Furthermore, we believe that providing opportunities for people to experience nature, is a pre-requisite for caring for nature.

How much work is there involved in this training?

The whole training takes about one year to complete.  During that time you will have eight direct face-to-face training days plus three webinars. Together, these will include all the practical and planning skills for Forest School; child development theory, observation and listening to children; the benefits of the outdoors and play; creating your Forest school handbook: policies and risk assessments; woodland stewardship and management. 

Our aim is to equip you to provide a safe, fun and professional experience for young people outdoors, that above all keep you and your groups inspired and curious about life, learning and nature.  This does mean that you are required to put in considerable hours on the home-study (approximately 115 hours outside of direct teaching) to research and complete your five units.

We offer our training across the seasons to enable you to experience nature and experience what’s possible at different times of year! As members of the Forest School Association UK and Irish Forest School Association we follow the Forest School Principles and maintain high standards.

In addition to this, if you do not already hold a current REC2/Wilderness First Aid certificate you will need to attend a two day outdoor First Aid Training.

What is ‘the pilot’? 

Everyone who trains as a Forest School facilitator runs 6 free Forest School sessions as part of their training. You will need to find and assess a woodland/natural space, and plan and deliver forest school sessions that are based on your observations of the children. You write this up and it forms part of your assessment. 

You will need to be covered by insurance to do this – it is highly recommended you carry out your Pilot sessions within an established organisation or school to avoid the cost of getting you own insurance.  It’s a good idea to think about options in advance, and we can support you to find a suitable placement.

We encourage you to work alongside other learners, creating peer support during your ‘Pilot 6 sessions’.  Learning by doing, getting as much experience as possible will increase your confidence.

Your Six Week Forest School Pilot Programme:

In order to do this you will need to convene a group of participants (min. 8/max. 16 learners), the group will need to meet once per week for 2-3 hours per FS session for six weeks. This will form part of your overall coursework and will be further explained during the training and you don’t need to have this organised before the course starts.

​Once you have attended the face-to-face training, to do the 6 Pilot sessions you need ​to be legally compliant -meaning to have ​a handbook of ​policies and procedures in place, risk assessments, insurance (from ​your​ organisation or individual) and have ​your Practical Unit 1​ completed and signed off.
​You need to have ​outdoor ​first aid done if ​you​ don’t have someone with ​you​ who has first aid.​ You​ do not need to ​complete ​​​​the woodland management or ecological survey components, though ​you​ need to do a site risk assessment, and that may highlight some flora/fauna issues.
​You​ need to have at least the first plan ready, and an idea going forward that will be adapted as you proceed. Again, you don’t need to have this organised before the course starts.

Insurance is expensive in Ireland at the moment, around €1000 for Public Liability (subject to change) for the year so it’s worth considering doing your pilot with a school/early years service to operate under their insurance.

What can I do once I have the qualification?

Forest School leaders work in schools, colleges, charities, early years, nature-based organisations, social services, play work,  and independently.  As a qualified facilitator, you will be able to take out groups of young people, families and adults outdoors enabling then to discover the natural world, themselves, increase their learning, confidence and sense of well being. 

This training provides a complete foundation to working in nature with groups of children of all ages and capabilities.  You will learn to bring in skills you have learned (e.g fire making, shelter building, using ropes & tools, songs & foraging) when appropriate, and trust your own knowledge of the children to provide and support experiences and play opportunities that build from their own interests.

If you are interested in becoming a sole-trader you will need to set up a company with the CRO, obtain insurance and run it as a small business. Setting up a business is not part of this course but you can find some useful information here and can connect with other Forest School Leaders who have been through this process through the Irish Forest School Association.

I have paediatric/occupational first aid, do I still need Outdoor First Aid?

Yes, you still need to be Outdoor First Aid trained even if you already have paediatric training/occupational first aid. The reason is that Forest School is typically held away from road access therefore emergency services may need to call in other rescue services to do a stretcher carry which can take more time. Also, outdoor first aid is more specific to what happens at Forest School.

How do I get Garda Vetted?

Currently, in Ireland you can not be vetted as a private individual, unless you have been through an Early Years training course or Department of Education where you can get a letter from the administration to say you are vetted.

If you are not currently vetted, you can arrangement this with the school or service you offer your pilot sessions to. Please leave enough time to do this.

Is this part of my teachers in-service hours?

No, this certificate is not part of your in-service hours.

If you have any more questions:

Please email: Marina on or mobile: 07966 514469 or Ciara on or mobile: 086 3199515.