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How to Become a Forest School Leader

Have a love of the outdoors and want to care for children? Maybe being a forest school practitioner is the path you want to take!

Table of Contents

What is a forest school?

You might be asking ‘what exactly is a forest school?’, well, for the uninitiated, a forest school is a long term hands-on learning experience that looks to provide social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical development for children in a natural setting by encouraging learning through play, exploration and supported risk taking. They offer a range of activities including but not limited to: woodcraft, foraging, sensory walks, shelter building, tree climbing, campfire cooking, fire building/lighting, hide and seek, bug hunts and puddle jumping. 

Step 1: Learn about a forest school leader's role and responsibilities

Being a forest school leader can be an immensely rewarding job. You will help the development of children while protecting the environment around them, this means you’ll be undertaking a wide variety of responsibilities from those centred around childcare to those that are closer to a ranger’s duties.

The responsibilities of a forest school leader can vary from place to place but here is a list of typical tasks you might have to undertake:

  •  Planning and overseeing the daily delivery, organisation and running of forest school sessions that promote learning in an outdoor environment and reflect the ethos of the forest school
  • Ensuring the forest school area is safe for the children by compiling risk–benefit analyses and implementing risk management systems 
  • Make sure welfare requirements of your group are met: clothing/shelter, hand washing facilities, toilets, food and drink
  • Effectively communicate with a variety of people, including landowners, other staff, parents, carers, management, leaners, members of the local community, etc.
  • Providing guidance and induction processes for helpers supporting the Forest School programme, to ensure a consistent approach
  • Performing baseline ecological surveys of the forest school site, establish environmental impact monitoring systems, create a simple site management plan and maintain the site for the duration of the programme
  • Making sure that equipment, tools and outdoor clothing are well maintained and appropriately stored 

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in it’s important you have the right qualifications and experience to secure the role.

When you'll be working

As a forest school leader you’ll be working year-round unless your nursery works to school term times. 

What does a forest school leader earn?

The average salary for a forest school leader is £20,963 but depending on your region and experience you could be earning more or less, with early years practitioner salaries ranging up to around £26,000. Less experienced forest school practitioners may have a salary closer to £19,500.

If you want to learn more about what a forest school teacher earns then check out our forest school leader salary page where you can find our breakdown!

How can you progress as a forest school leader?

Forest school leader career progression

If you want to know how you could progress, take a look at some of our other career advice pages and find out what you’ll need to get where you want to be!

Step 2: Improve your chances of getting a position as a forest school leader

If you feel like working with children in a nature setting is for you, then you’ll need to ensure that you have all of the necessary skills and qualifications for a forest school leader position.

You’ll need to meet the general requirements for the job role, as well as any requirements that potential employers might have. Make sure that you fulfil them before you apply. There are a few things that you can do to improve your chances when you’re looking to enter a career as a forest school practitioner.

Which qualifications do you need to become a forest school leader?

To be a forest school leader a Level 3 qualification is usually required or for you at least to have a Level 2 and be working towards a Level 3. You will also need to have a valid DBS certificate as well as outdoor first aid training. 

If you are eligible, the first step to becoming a forest school practitioner is enrolling on a Level 3 Forest School Training course. These courses are often very popular so getting places can be difficult. Typically courses ask for you to meet one of these requirements to enrol on a Level 3 Forest School Training course:

Having a combination of these would improve your chances of getting on a course and eventually getting a job as a forest school leader. Having a GCSE A*-C or equivalent in English and Maths is often a requirement when enrolling on courses and even for some roles.

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Get some supporting qualifications valuable to the job

Though not essential, having supporting qualifications can really improve your chances of getting the position that you want and help you stand out among other applicants. Getting your supporting qualifications will let you demonstrate additional knowledge and specialisations that other candidates might not have.

In a forest school leader position, keeping your learners safe is very important, so a safeguarding and prevent course will equip you with the knowledge you need to help safeguard the young children you’ll be caring for, a hugely important part of the job. Employers, as well as parents, are going to feel confident knowing you have the knowledge you need to support the organisation’s safeguarding responsibilities to a higher level.

A qualification in understanding autism would be a great asset to a aspiring forest school leader. Having a greater understanding of autism and how to effectively communicate with autistic people can be invaluable when trying to support their development. Even if you’re not working in a specialised setting, having the knowledge is likely going to help in your position as autism affects 1 in 100 people in the UK, which could include some of the children you’re going to be caring for.

How to get experience as a forest school leader

Some experience working with children is often a requirement to be a forest school leader. This would usually be paid work but voluntary work could also show that you are eager to pursue a career in this sector. For example, working as a sports coach, or nursery assistant, or volunteering for youth groups. Experience working with SEN children is also invaluable and is required in some roles. 

The most ideal job role for you to have experience in is as a forest school assistant. Working as a forest school assistant you will have not only gain the childcare skills needed but also the experience of working in the unique environment of a forest school. Another way of getting more specialised experience is asking local forest schools if they need a volunteer or forest school helper. This will not only give you a taste at the role but may be valuable for networking if you do decide to pursue this a career. 

To get some experience in a childcare setting try contacting a local school, nursery or other organisation directly. Volunteers are accepted in most educational organisations, but you will need to have a DBS check and be supervised in the initial stages of your placement. Checking out our jobs board is a great way to start searching for the experience you need!

Typical weekly hours

As a forest school leader you could be working around 30-40 hours a week depending on your nursery and responsibilities.

Step 3: Make sure your CV is up-to-date

You should make sure your CV includes your most up-to-date information, including any relevant qualifications and work experience you might’ve gained since you last updated it. It’s important to present yourself as best you can, since we all know first impressions are important, and your CV is more often than not going to be the first thing potential employers will see. It’s essential that they’re done right.

To make the best impression you can, you’ll need to convey the right information and present it well. Given how important your CV is, we’ve created a short guide to help give you the best chance of landing an interview and starting your career in early years!

Top forest school leader CV writing tips

When you’re looking at a position as a forest school leader, it’s crucial that your CV is high quality and reflects your passion for the role. An effective CV is well presented, displays relevant skills and experience, and gives your potential employers an insight into who you are. 

It’s important that you use grammar correctly, that your writing is concise but informative, and any non-relevant information is left out. Not following these rules could mean your application is rejected, since employers could see it as too unprofessional. Our forest school teacher CV writing tips are here to help you to land that position you’ve been waiting for!

1. Grab their attention with a personal profile

Your personal profile is the first section of your CV that employers will read to find out more about you. This is your chance to introduce yourself, sell your skills and outline your characteristics. Personal profiles are a perfect way to persuade recruiters, as it tells them straight off why they should hire you. 

This section can include relevant experience and achievements, but it’s important to tailor this to the job description and what’s prioritised there to show your enthusiasm for the role and that you’re a serious candidate for the position who has what they’re looking for. 

There are no set rules on the length of this section but you should aim for a few short sentences and no longer than 100 words. This way you can keep it concise and effectively highlight who you are to employers without giving them too much information, increasing the chances of them reading through the rest of your CV and considering you for the job. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward and presenting the things that you think make yourself stand out.

Talk about yourself (when it's relevant)

Though your CV should be more focused on your skills and work experience rather than your personality, it can be good to include some relevant personal information such as your hobbies in your CV. What counts as relevant will vary from job to job. For a forest school leader job talking about hobbies that relate to the outdoors is a good thing to do as it suggests that you have a genuine love of nature and don’t just see it as another part of your job.

2. Sell your skills

There should be a section in your CV that outlines your relevant skills. This makes it easy for the employer to read and more easily determine if you meet the requirements of the role. You should format this section using bullet points so that it’s simple and easy for employers to read. Make sure to include relevant skills that you think make you a good candidate for the position. Such as:

  • Being flexible and adaptive. In learner led experiences it’s important to stay on your toes and always be ready to switch gears if required
  • Being friendly and approachable. Having a fun positive demeanour is important when working with children
  • Being able to work in all weathers. Something as simple this can be a good thing to mention as you will be working outdoors almost exclusively

If you’re struggling to think of skills that are relevant to the job then it’s a good idea to check vacancy advertisements for some ideas. Start off by rereading the job you’re applying for and what might be useful to mention, but if you’re still stuck then take a look at other similar job postings. You should also think about which of your skills have been helpful in any of your past work or study. 

It’s important when talking about your skills to try and include both hard and soft skills, so that you can show some variety. Hard skills are the skills you gain through experience, knowledge, or learning such as through a qualification or after undertaking training. Soft skills refer to your personal traits and habits that determine how you work, like being an effective communicator, able to work in a team, or organisational skills.

3. Outline your experience

You should outline any past experiences in either work or volunteer positions that are relevant to becoming a forest school leader and can best show your potential employer the value that you’d be bringing to the position. 

The most valuable experience you can have as a forest school leader is working in that position before and is something you should present front and centre. Give details of where you worked, including the dates you started and finished your employment (these don’t have to be specific, usually the month and year are fine), alongside your key responsibilities within the role. If you have a lot of relevant experience then list it from most to least recent. Employers will want to know more of what you’ve been doing recently, rather than years ago, as it’s more relevant to the jobs you’ll be applying for now.

If you have no relevant experience then you should include any previous employment you’ve been in and the transferable skills you gained that will be useful in the role. Try and think about any similarities between your previous positions and the one you’re applying for. Is there anything listed on the job advertisement that sounds familiar?

4. List your education and qualifications

Making sure you mention your education clearly on your CV is very important, as it will show that you have the knowledge and qualifications needed for the job. When listing your qualifications you should prioritise two things: the level of the qualification (is it a degree or a GCSE?) and when you received it. Much like your experience, it’s best to list your qualifications from your most to least recent.

When you’re listing your qualifications make sure you include the name of the institution, the dates you attended them from, the subject(s) you studied or name of the qualification, as well as the final grade you received. If there’s a particular aspect of your study that is very relevant to the position you’re applying to then it would be a good idea to briefly mention it at some point.

Include your certificates and other qualifications

Don’t think you just need to include your experiences from school or university, things like standalone courses that award you with a certificate or diploma are more than relevant, especially if they cover a subject that’s relevant to your work. Add your certificates in the same way you’d add your other qualifications, providing any additional information as needed.

5. Remember to include your contact details

It might seem obvious, but having your contact details clearly signposted on your CV is extremely important, without them potential employers may have no way to contact you. You should include your up-to-date email, phone number, and address somewhere near the top of your CV so that they don’t get lost amongst the rest of your information.

Example forest school leader CV

Forest School Leader CV Template

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Struggling to put your CV together? Download our free CV template and get a head start on making a fantastic CV. Make sure to follow the rest of our tips and learn how to land that job you’ve always wanted!

Step 4: Search for forest school leader jobs you can apply for

Searching for a forest school leader position should be simple, and shouldn’t be any different than finding any other job you’ve applied for before. Make sure that the positions you apply for are a good fit for you and you have all the necessary qualifications and you should have no trouble! Checking out our job board could be a good start for your search.

Step 5: Write a job-specific cover letter

You should write your cover letter using the job description of the vacancy you’re applying for. Your cover letter is an important part of many job applications. 

No matter what kind of job you’re applying for, your cover letter is going to help demonstrate to potential employers the passion that you have for the role and allow you to sell yourself as a valuable candidate that they need to consider hiring. 

Top forest school leader cover letter writing tips

Cover letters are your chance to really sell yourself to a prospective employer and progress to the next stage of the hiring process. This opportunity isn’t always fully exploited by candidates, and sometimes cover letters just become reworked CVs or are poorly planned and formatted.

1. What should a cover letter look like?

The header of your cover letter should have your up-to-date email, contact number, and the current date, as well as the recipient’s contact information. You should start your cover letter with a greeting such as “Dear [Company] Hiring Manager” or “Dear Mr/Ms Surname”, if you know who you’ll be contacting directly.

When choosing your font you need to make sure it’s not only easy to read but also looks professional, as well as the right size. Try to stick between a size 10pt-12pt font on your cover letter, as making your font size too big could come across unprofessionally, but it should still be clear and legible. Make sure to split the main body of text into multiple paragraphs, this not only makes it easier to read but also easier to plan the structure of your cover letter (each paragraph might have a specific topic, for example). 

It’s a good idea to sign off your cover letter using your name and a complimentary close. Using “Yours Sincerely” or “Your Faithfully” are seen as very formal, but can sometimes appear outdated, try using “Kind Regards” as a formal alternative that is still professionally acceptable.

2. What should I write in my cover letter?

Here are some suggestions for each of the paragraphs in your cover letter and what you might want to mention to your prospective employer: 

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We are interactive boxes, tap us! 

First paragraph


Start by explaining why you're writing the letter, making sure to mention the job you're interested in by its specific title, you could also mention where you saw or heard about the vacancy. Give a brief sentence stating your experience or a relevant qualification. 

Second paragraph

Experience and Qualifications

Highlight your relevant experience or qualifications. Talk about relevant responsibilities you had in previous roles, and go into more detail about how this makes you suitable for the role--is there a particular achievement you're proud of in your previous work or study that is relevant to the job? Mention it here!

Third paragraph


Discuss the skills you have that are relevant to the job and make sure that you mention how they make you well-suited for the role. Always be showing the employer what you have to offer them if they were to hire you. 

Final paragraph

Final note

Reiterate your interest in the role. Outline your motivations for not only working this type of job but why you want to work for this employer. It's a good idea to include some relevant knowledge about your potential employer, as it shows you are taking an extra interest.  

3. How can I make my cover letter unique for each role I apply for?

A good way of making your cover letter stand out from other candidates is by tailoring it to the particular role you’re applying for. It’s always easiest to look back through the job posting and pick out relevant information like the job title and employer and making sure to mention them early on. This will show your employer that your cover letter is tailored towards them, rather than being something generic you’re sending around to every employer.

When you’re going through the job posting take note of the specific skills and experience listed as desirable by the employer, you can tailor the skills and experience you mention to what they’re looking for. Try not to follow along too closely and risk looking like you’ve just copied the advertisement, but do enough to show that you’re the ideal candidate. Order your skills, experience, and qualifications in order of relevancy–what’s highlighted or mentioned first in the job posting? Is there something very specific that they’re looking for? Make sure you bring it up!

4. Finishing touches

Now that your cover letter is well-formatted, has the main body of it’s content written, and has been tailored to the job role, it’s time to put the finishing touches to your work.

Proofread what you’ve written a few times over to check for punctuation or grammar errors and how well your writing flows. Try and enlist the help of a friend or relative to give it a read over, they may spot something you missed!

Now you should go back to the job vacancy and re-read all of it. Check if there are any special instructions you should follow when applying for the position, like if they’re asking for the documents to be submitted as a particular file type or maybe want you to add a job reference number to your cover letter. Make any of the changes you need and ensure everything’s in order. Overlooking small things like this could ruin your otherwise perfect cover letter!

Example forest school leader cover letter

Forest school leader cover letter

Download our Cover Letter Template and Make Yours Today!

Struggling to put your cover letter together? Download our free cover letter template and get a head start on writing an amazing cover letter. Make sure to follow the rest of our tips and learn how to land that job you’ve always wanted!

Step 6: Prepare for forest school interviews

We all know that job interviews can be nerve-wracking, but being well prepared for the interview will help you to appear calmer and more confident. It might seem obvious, but make sure that you always present yourself professionally at interviews, dress well, and always be polite. First impressions can make or break your chances!

Interviews can be daunting and hard to prepare for–especially if you don’t have much experience–but we’re here to help you out. 

We’ve compiled a list of common questions that you might be asked in your interview for a forest school position and how you should go about answering them, as well as some questions you can ask your interviewer to help show your interest in the position!

Questions your interviewer might ask

Your motivations

Many interviewers will ask why you want a particular job role. For a forest school leader position more simplistic answers won’t do, you will need to show genuine passion for both childcare and the environment.  Your personal experiences relating to forest schools or learning in natural environments are ideal things to mention as they can help to explain your motivations for the role. 

You will often be asked by an interviewer why do you want to work at that organisation in particular. This is a much more important question if you are applying to be a forest school practitioner. This is because the ideas around forest schools are related to environmental concerns alongside the development of children so outlining why you are a good match for this forest school is important. Try talking about local environmental concerns and how you would maintain an awareness of them in the role. 

Knowing the ethos of the forest school you are applying to and outlining how your personal thoughts compliment it well could be a good start when answering this question. Also mentioning any personal ties you have to the school or surrounding area would also be a great inclusion.

Your personal approach to the role

Interviewers are looking for you to talk about how a forest school can impact the environment and your attitudes towards these impacts. This could be answered by you discussing which typical forest school activities cause environmental harm and how you plan to respond to the harms caused.

Some questions you could consider are:

  • Is the activity so damaging that you think it’s not worth doing at all?
  • Do you think there is a way of effectively mitigating the damage?
  • What negative effects will changes/removal of the activity have on the forest school experience? 

If you have previous experience working in a forest school environment recalling a time when you have had to make these judgements will really impress the interviewer. But be careful when answering questions with examples it can be easy to become side-tracked. Using the STAR method can be a good way to structure your answers.

Forest schools lean towards more learner led experiences by design and deciding how much impact adults should have on this can be a difficult balancing act. Interviewers are looking for you to outline how much input you think adults should have when supporting leaners, also mention why you think this. Try researching typical activities in-depth so you can bring up examples.

Qualifications and experience

This is a great opportunity for you to flex your knowledge and experience in areas you think are relevant to the role but you might not have talked about yet. If you have, mentioning experience with SEN children is a good idea as well as experience with working in outdoor environments.

This doesn’t have to be experience just through work though, relevant hobbies can sometimes be even more valuable as they show your dedication to the area.

Employers usually are going to favour those who have been qualified for longer but this is not always the case. The employer could be looking for someone recently qualified as they wish to mould you to fit their more niche requirements. Also courses could have been recently changed, your more up-to-date knowledge could be an asset. Either way, just be honest! You won’t be judged for not being qualified for long.

Questions for you to ask your interviewer

Now let's recap...

Final note

After reading through our guide, you should be ready to embark on a new career as a forest school leader with the confidence you need to excel. If you follow our tips then you’ll be more than ready to get the job role you’ve been looking for! Good luck, and if you need any more advice on other career options, don’t forget to take a look through our career advice page

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