Friday, June 21

UK’s first outdoor primary school opens



An outdoor primary school has opened in south London where children spend 95 per cent of their days outside even in winter.

Liberty Woodland School, which launched in Worcester Park last week for ages four to 11, is believed to be the UK’s first outdoor primary school, drawing inspiration from Scandinavia.

The school says its lessons will “take some influence” from the core national curriculum but will be taught via creative projects and “play-based learning”.

Each day begins in a circle around the campfire. Pupils eat lunch cooked in the Edwardian house that is the school’s official building on tree stumps, swing from trees, and do art, music and woodwork projects in sheds.

The independent “forest school”, which advertises fees of £3,995 per term, runs on a four-day week Monday to Thursday, with hours of 9am-5pm and a shuttle bus home for 6pm. The idea is to enable full working days for parents four days a week, and minimise travel time.

The first cohort of 28 pupils, whose parents include a nuclear physicist and actors, is being taught in mixed-age groups, with a one-to-eight teacher-pupil ratio.

The school is the latest offering from the team behind Little Forest Folk, a group of six outdoor nurseries that won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise. Based in London parks and woods, they cater to more than 150 children aged two to five, taking their naps under canvas.

Former civil servants Leanna and James Barrett, of Raynes Park, began the social enterprise in 2015, wanting a nature-led education for their children. They see conventional schools as “rearing children in captivity”.

Ms Barrett said: “All of our core families are passionately behind us, but we also have the people coming to us and saying, ‘How on earth are kids not going to get sick in your care?’ … When it was pouring down yesterday the children said they were rainbathing … They love nature.”

Pupils will not sit Sats, but Ms Barrett said she believes the school will get an outstanding rating from Ofsted because the project-based exam methods are taxing and provide useful skills for work.

The school yesterday opened applications for 2020-21, with 12.5 per cent of places offered free to Kingston families from underprivileged backgrounds.