Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Francesca Signore, a qualified teacher, has branched out in her new business venture; Forest Schools in Liverpool

Francesca - or Froo as she is usually known - has been involved in education in some way for over 10 years. She has taught in a secondary school, taught abroad, and delivered evening classes to adults. After a long maternity leave, a friend inspired her with Forest Schools. ‘She said “You’ve got a Masters – get out there and start using your brain!” It was the kick-start that I needed to get involved with something new and exciting.’

The ethos in education, where children are judged almost solely on a limited part of their academic achievement, didn’t sit comfortably with Froo anymore. In addition, the constant testing of pupils, and the workload and stress endured by staff, were not an appealing environment to return to. ‘I just felt that my values and ethos were different to that of the education sector. Once you have children, your priorities do change and I wanted to get out and do something that I really believed in.’

So what exactly is a Forest School? According to the Forest School Association (FSA) it is; ‘A different educational approach to outdoor learning and play. It provides young people with the opportunity to succeed and develop confidence and self-esteem though hands-on learning experiences in a woodland environment.’

Currently there are a number of different models of Forest Schools, with some nurseries being entirely based around outside activities and a growing number of businesses cropping up to support the school curriculum with outside learning. But, as Froo learnt, one of the main challenges that face individuals who start a business running Forest Schools is breaking into the schools. It can be tough persuading those in charge that this is an effective and beneficial use of school time.

Froo found that she needed to have ‘a foot in the door’ if she was going to succeed. One of the most challenging parts of getting business was the need to persevere when it came to getting in contact with head teachers and those in charge of the budgets and students’ timetables.

But Froo is convinced of the benefits. Research has proven time and time again that outdoor learning in the form of forest schools is beneficial to a child’s wellbeing. She says, children who spend more time outdoors are proven to be; ‘less stressed, have less sickness, are better at working in groups, have a higher esteem, better concentration and higher confidence in their own abilities. This has all proven to be an excellent foundation for raising academic achievement. In the package that Froo offers with Branching Out Forest School is observational feedback on some of the pupils’ emotional intelligence. This demonstrates to the staff the impact of Forest School on their behaviour and learning.

After some market research, Froo got in touch with The Women’s Organisation, and after about a year was a qualified Forest School Practitioner

Now ‘Branching Out Forest School’ is going from strength to strength and is receiving glowing reviews on the website.

One head teacher from South Liverpool writes; ‘The activities were pitched perfectly and the teamwork required to get the most out of them has really helped the group gel in a way that they hadn't before.’
Running her own business offers a great deal of flexibility for Froo, who has 3 children and also works as a Support Tutor for undergraduates with dyslexia at Liverpool John Moores University. She says it is important for her that her children see their mother as someone who works, as well as their father.

The Women’s Organisation was able to support and advise Froo when she was in the process of setting up Branching Out, and she found our courses particularly useful. ‘I have an enormous sense of achievement running my own business. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do this without the support I received from The Women’s Organisation. From writing a business plan, marketing, invoicing and keeping my own books- I never thought I would be able to do all that is required to run a business. But thanks to the level of support I received from The Women’s Organisation, I can.’

If you would like some help and support starting or growing your business, get in touch with us to see what we can do!
0151 706 8111 

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