A PIONEERING school project that gives children more time outdoors could be the first of its kind in Portsmouth after the city council secured funding.
As part of the Conservative green pledge that was launched yesterday it was revealed that the council had the £125,000 needed to set up a forest school in Hilsea.
Plans for the outside learning centre in Foxes Forest would be available to a number of different schools around the city including primary, secondary and special needs schools. Currently there are no forest schools in Portsmouth, although there are some in nearby rural areas.
Council leader Donna Jones said: ‘It will be the first forest school in Portsmouth and I believe the first, or one of the first forest schools in a city in the UK. Most cities in the country don’t have a forest or woodland area so we wanted to utilise that.
‘It’s important that students in the city will be able to spend more time outside and to learn about the environment.’
Nationally more and more schools are opting into forest schools as part of their curriculum. The aim is to encourage students to spend more time outdoors, gain new social skills and to boost their confidence.
Students who attend schools under the Solent Academies Trust, the Mary Rose Academy, Redwood Park Academy and Cliffdale Primary, already travel out of the city for forest school sessions which its pupils attend once a week.
Alison Beane, the executive head teacher of the Solent Academies Trust, said: ‘If this new forest school is set up it will be fantastic. Currently we have to travel about half an hour for our sessions. The nearer the forest is the better, it gives us more learning time.
‘Getting young people outside and into the forest environment to support their learning opens up opportunities for them that they wouldn’t get within the four walls of a classroom. They learn basic skills linked to being outdoors and about protecting the environment. Most importantly it helps their confidence.
‘We had a girl who was an elective mute and since she has been going out into the forest she has started to talk to us which is amazing.’
The proposal was met with cross-party support when it was first raised in February.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat party, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘It’s great that the funding has been secured to set up a forest school. We all voted in favour of it, it’s a sensible idea.
‘It is especially important that children who live in cities are able to learn more about the environment. Children can become really good environmental campaigners by telling their parents and grandparents about it.
Plans for the school are already in place, with hopes that it will be ready by 2019.