A ‘forest school’ in every park in Liverpool

The pandemic has made many people think again about the realtionship between nature and people even in our cities. New thinking about what we want from education is now possible and the informal, practical learning in forest schools should be a major way forward

Councillor Liz Makinson, the Liberal Democrats Children’s Services Spokesperson in Liverpool has suggested 6 ways in which schools can respond to a new way following the pandemic.

Key amongst these is the provision of a different type of school for those under 7 in which they learn by experience. She is calling for a forest school to be created in every appropriate Liverpool Park which would both provide a better type of informal education on the Scandinavian model and would ease the pressure to add on more classrooms in schools which are already overcrowded.

Cllr Makinson says, “As a teacher myself I know that far too much pressure is being placed on children with constant internal assessment and a toxic mix of learning walks, book scrutiny and micro management of teachers creates a stressful environment which has a significant effect on the mental health and well being of children and does not increase their attainment.  Happy children and young people, in an environment of respect and challenge learn well and develop skills for life and an enthusiasm for reading and learning.” 

Resilience and well being should be the keystone of our aims for children, with inspirational teaching rather than micro managed assessment models.  Young people need skills for life, not just for employability but to be happy, successful adults who are engaged with society and retain a desire to learn. 

The pandemic has created a re-evaluation of society and a desire to make a fairer and better way of living in the future.  Schools should not return to business as usual but use this to take a long look at how to ensure that the joy of learning and the well being of children & young people is prioritised”. 

You can find out more about forest schools at http://www.forestschoolassociation.org

Cllr Makinson’s ‘Six to Fix’ list is given here:

  1. A forest school in every major park. Deal with the increasing numbers of children in the City by providing forest schools, where children spend much of their time outdoors and develop empathy for nature.  Every child should be given the opportunity to spend time there, which would assist with the issues of overcrowded classrooms during and post pandemic.                                                                                                                                                                                              
  2. Wellbeing should be at the heart of our schools.  The pressures of constant internal assessment must end with a refocus on children enjoying learning and being happy.  Schools need to be aware of the damage a stressful environment does to children and make real and concerted efforts to make schools less stressful.
  • Teachers, who are continuing to step up as key workers in many cases, must be trusted to teach and inspire children.  Continual ‘big brother’ style monitoring within schools has not raised standards but has lowered morale, achievement and enjoyment.
  • Make all our schools part of and responsive to their local community. One of the positives of this terrible crisis has been communities coming together and supporting one another.   Schools should look to engage fully with the local community and involve them in aspects of school life.
  • Involve parents more. Parents have been involved in their children’s education as never before during this pandemic.  When it is safe for schools to reopen, we must not lost this home /school engagement.  
  • Engage with nature more. Many people have engaged with the wonders of nature far more in Liverpool’s marvellous parks on their daily exercise and enjoying the beauty of spring when life has been stressful and anxious.  Schools should make engaging with nature a priority, growing plants, having an allotment and organising visits to the countryside.

In addition Cllr Makinson is a firm supporter of the national Lib Dem policy for the abolition of Regional Schools Commissioners and OFSTED. The organisations cost a fortune and there is absolutely no proof that they add value to our education system. Let’s use the money instead at a local level to equip schools properly  to face this and any future pandemics.

Some of the suggestions that Cllr Makinson is making can be done immediately. Some can only be done by putting pressure on the Government. She is putting these ideas forward as part of the Liverpool Liberal Democrat plan of starting a city-wide conversation about Liverpool’s opportunities as it comes through and out of the coronavirus crisis. We believe that people want a new normal which is different from the old normal. We want to provide education, leisure and employment in a different way that picks up on the new mood within the people of Liverpool and the practical changes that will be forced on society as a result of the financial difficulties that the City and Country will face.

Conditions for re-opening schools.

Cllr Makinson has also suggested the following conditions for a safe and orderly return to the classroom for both students and teachers:

We need to make sure that children are as safe as they can be when they return to school.  This does not mean a bit of extra cleaning and a couple of hand sanitisers.  Mayor Anderson is right to say Liverpool schools should not reopen on June 1st

What schools must now do is use the time to equip schools to meet the challenge of this and future pandemics.  Measures should include:

  • Individual desks fitted with Perspex shields;
  • Provisions for all students to be given hand sanitiser on entering school and available throughout the day in all classrooms and shared areas/ lavatories;
  • Temperatures taken daily on arrival; 
  • Class sizes need to be considerably smaller. 
  • Cleaning needs to be carried out regularly throughout the day, with all cleaners given PPE. 

You can contact Liz Makinson at liz.makinson@liverlibdems.org.uk or on 07939 119402

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
This entry was posted in Climate Change and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s