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Forest School leader urges children to engage with ‘appropriate level of risk’

Angela Beales runs Into the Wild Wood Forest School''Pictured: Ange Beales with children Stevie (10) and Izzy (7) ANL-160831-115746009
Angela Beales runs Into the Wild Wood Forest School''Pictured: Ange Beales with children Stevie (10) and Izzy (7) ANL-160831-115746009

A Forest School leader and former Norfolk teacher wants more children to take risks and enjoy experiences not offered in schools, as she calls for newcomers to join in.

Angela Beales, 41, of Factory Lane, Roydon, launched Into the Wild Wood Forest School in April, which is set to expand its reach to pupils at Roydon Pre-School and Bressingham Primary School when the academic year begins this month.

Formerly a teacher in Diss and Dickleburgh, Mrs Beales discovered Forest Schools whilst volunteering for the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, and she said what she loved most about it was seeing children increase their confidence and independence through first-hand experiences of nature.

She told the Diss Express: “Because it’s child-led, the children choose what it is they want to do. You look at what really motivates them.

“You are showing that you trust them. You are doing things that carry an element of risk, so you are putting confidence in them.

“It’s not based on the school curriculum. It’s about encouraging independent play.”

Originally conceived in Scandinavia, the Forest School movement is designed to enable children to explore a woodland environment, helping them be creative, improve their perseverance and resilience, and develop life skills.

Mrs Beales, a mother of three, set up her own groups last half-term at Thornham Walks and Quaker Wood, before holding summer sessions for Diss Children’s Centre and young people from Chernobyl.

The sessions included climbing trees, hunting bugs, lighting fires and building rafts and dens — activites which Mrs Beales claims is what children of previous generations used to do “beyond the watchful eyes of adults”.

She said: “Today, we worry much more about our children’s safety.

“As a parent myself, I understand that concern. I worry too. We hear so many frightening stories and we feel a strong urge to protect our children from all risk.

“However, we are in danger of doing more harm than good if we shelter them from all risk.

“By allowing children to engage with an appropriate level of risk, we enable them to manage risk and understand how to keep themselves safe.”

Mrs Beales added she aimed to grow the company steadily, and looked forward to working with local schools.

For additional details, visit www.intothewildwood.com

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