Slaley First School pupils embrace 'forest school' status at luxury hotel

Pupils at Slaley First School are using the grounds of a luxury hotel to bring subjects to life

Lara Johnston, 8, left, and Charlotte Wilson, 8, from Slaley Primary School, in the outdoor classroom in the grounds of Slaley Hall
Lara Johnston, 8, left, and Charlotte Wilson, 8, from Slaley Primary School, in the outdoor classroom in the grounds of Slaley Hall

It's dirty work but children at a Northumberland first school can’t get enough of their new outdoor classroom.

Pupils at Slaley First School have been given permission to use the grounds of luxury hotel Slaley Hall, to create their ‘forest’ school’ which uses nature to bring subjects to life.

It is believed this is the first time a hotel has provided this facility to their community, anywhere in the country.

The village school, which has 54 pupils, has struggled in recent years with funding to offer its pupils the opportunities staff would like.

A year ago, nearby Slaley Hall stepped forward to offer its services free of charge, including use of its leisure facilities and the money to buy a new school gate.

The school’s head teacher Rebecca Jackson said: “One of our teachers has taken the forest school training course and is now qualified to deliver this unique type of education that will play huge dividends for the health, happiness and learning potential of all the pupils who take part.

“However, without Slaley Hall’s generous offer of this dedicated space to hold the classes, we would have struggled to find a suitable venue. Now we have this area, our children can really benefit.

“We’re a small school so funding is tight. Working in collaboration with Slaley Hall is helping us fulfil our ambitions as a school.

“We’re really grateful to the hotel for its support, both on this project, and the other schemes it has worked with us on, and we’re looking forward to continuing our fruitful relationship in the future.”

The outdoor classroom, complete with wooden log stools for children, will be used all year round by the school whatever the weather.

Forest schools are an international concept that started in Sweden in the 1950s and arrived in the UK in the 1990s.

At the heart of the project is improved education and play, and research has linked the schemes to happier and healthier children, who have a greater capacity for learning.

General manger for Slaley Hall, Grant Mckenzie, said: “We are delighted to be helping Slaley First School fulfil its ambitions to become a forest school. As a parent of young children myself, I can understand just what an exciting scheme this is for the school and the children.

“Slaley Hall Hotel takes its commitment to working with the local community very seriously and we have already funded a new gate for the school and provide children with free access to our pool to train for the regional schools swimming gala.”

Two classes of children will use the space with a specially-qualified forest school teacher Julie Hay for an hour each Thursday, where they will study subjects such as drama, science and numeracy in the open air come rain or shine.

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