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St Mary’s C of E Primary School

“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

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Discovery at the Deanery, Forest School

Why Forest School?


Also known as ‘Discovery at the Deanery’, St. Mary’s Forest School draws upon the beauty of the deanery gardens to educate children in the physical and emotional benefits of spending time in the natural environment whilst enabling them to connect with nature. It is a safe place, filled with awe, wonder, respect, trust and belonging. The Deanery gardens provide children with an environment in which they feel safe and have the freedom to explore, be themselves and develop holistically. Amongst many things, they are free to discover their limits and interests, friendships, a love and respect for the natural environment and a sense of belonging in this incredible world. Forest school provides a place where all participants, whether young or old are treated as equals. Children are supported to follow their interests, take risks and make discoveries, without the fear of failure or being judged. 


Children are active agents in their own development and are predominantly open to learning from their environments. Discovery at the Deanery sessions provide pupils at St. Mary’s with regular opportunities to spend time in the natural world. We make use of all of the natural resources available to us in order to extend and enrich learning, providing children with the freedom and opportunities to discover through play and to make their own choices. The natural setting offers inspirational, stimulating, hands on experiences which will develop resilience, self-esteem, responsibility and communication skills. 


 All sessions at the Deanery gardens, have a learner centred approach, which will provide participants with the opportunities to play freely amongst nature and to truly experience the wonderment and excitement of the natural, outdoor environment and develop a feeling of their place within it. Through allowing participants to lead their own learning, practitioners  encourage them to identify areas of nature that spark genuine curiosity. This natural curiosity will then be nurtured into a true connection with nature.


Forest School sessions will provide children with numerous opportunities to find things which light their passions, but it can take time and exploration and practice before they discover what really makes them curious. The child-led nature and regularity of Discovery at the Deanery sessions allows children the time and freedom to really discover what excites them about the natural world. They are encouraged to reflect, re-explore their thoughts and feelings, failures and successes and to consolidate their understanding of the world around them. Through the positive feelings children experience in the woodland setting, they will develop a deep awareness and instinctual respect for the natural world and their place within it, which we hope will continue throughout their lives.


Forest School is a specialised learning approach that has the learner at the centre, whatever their age or ability. 

Forest school sessions at St Mary’s will be underpinned by the six Forest School principles, which are.

  1. It is Long-term.
  2. It takes place in a natural or woodland environment.
  3. It promotes the holistic development of all involved.
  4. It offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks.
  5. It is run by qualified Forest School practitioners.
  6. It is learner-centred.


A child centred, holistic approach is central to the success of Forest School and emphasis is placed on the need to develop the whole child socially, physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

We would like to thank Dedham Vale Tree Surgery who kindly donated wood to the Deanery to enhance our Forest School experience. They were extremely helpful and we would highly recommend them as a company.

hidden woods - A Poem by Hollie McNish -