This film was made 3 years ago and reminds us of where we have come from but yet it still reflects our core values and ethos, giving a lovely flavour of how it is to be at Wood School.


We have always aspired to be a small school in a wood. A place that enables children to thrive and learn.

Six years after we first set up, we are now ready to offer an entire primary education – should you wish your child to be with us for five days a week from September. Each day will be themed around a different aspect of learning. You can choose how many days your child attends.

We’ll be offering children the chance to learn in a creative, playful way – following their curiosity, problem solving, working individually and in small groups, creating their own projects and learning through being outside. Above all we will seek to stimulate a love of learning and to support children to grow into compassionate adults – able to contribute to their communities in ways that are both fulfilling and meaningful.

For children aged seven and under, Wood School will feel very much like it is now. Our emphasis on child led play will remain central to our approach.  Adults will help with creating a sense of community and building relationships.

For the older children, we will be putting in more structure – tailored for different age groups and aiming to offer challenge and opportunities for growth. Half the day will still be given over to play, building friendship and working on children’s own projects.  There’ll also still be a ‘play in the woods’ day on our Forest School Fridays.

Come and find out more at our meetings on Thursday 9th June in the woods.

There’s a 2:00 – 3:30pm meeting aimed at existing Wood School families and a 5:00 – 6:30pm meeting aimed at those families new to Wood School – but you are welcome to attend either!

We’ll have staff on hand in the woods to look after children whilst you’re at the meeting if that helps.  Let us know using the Eventbrite links below if you’d like to book a place at one of the meetings.

Eventbrite - Becoming a small school in the woods

Eventbrite - Introducing a small school in the woods

The Wood School was born out of a dream to create a tiny school in a wood: a small, creative and nature based learning environment for urban children. We are now in our fifth year – building on our experiences and deepening our practice.

Wood School is currently open three days a week: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We are based at Paupers Wood in West Didsbury – a small privately owned woodland. The School has places for 24 children a day and our normal staffing level is to have four staff a day, plus termly volunteers. We have a sliding daily fee structure that is linked to family income and in the main we follow the Manchester City Council term dates. Families commit to coming to Wood School a term at a time – though some children have been with us since we started!

Children at Wood School come from a mixture of learning backgrounds: some home-schooled, others going to ‘normal’ school when they are not with us. The Wood School has a teaching team of seven core staff coming from a variety of backgrounds and bringing with them a range of passions and skills.

At Wood School we see learning as a process not an outcome. Critically we hope to foster the children’s intrinsic desire to learn. We want to harness their creativity and develop their skills. In order to do this, we feel five things are vital: being outside lots; play and inspiration; self directed learning; creating a thriving community and knowing that everyone has intrinsic worth and that everybody’s needs matter.

making things

Being outside and in nature

A defining feature of Wood School is that we are primarily an outdoor learning environment in a wood. A woodland is a constantly changing environment and so is inherently stimulating. It provides a richness of resources for children to use in their play and investigations – sticks, seeds, the weather, things growing and decomposing.

Being in a wild, natural environment is shown to reduce stress and promote well-being and health. At Wood School we see how being in a woodland environment develops resilience, creativity and independence in the children and fostering life skills – such as sewing, tool work and cooking. We value the deep connection to the natural world that we can see Wood School making in our children.

snow arrives

Play and inspiration

Play is at the heart of Wood School’s philosophy – we believe that play is founded on curiosity, harnesses creativity and fosters the development of skills. Play is the basis of how children of all ages learn at Wood School. Some play is child led; some is adult led; some is adult supported play. As adults we seek to build on play to extend learning—by sharing our passions and we aim to inspire a love for learning – through developing knowledge, asking questions and supporting problem solving and investigation.

aquaduct building 2

Self-directed learning

We see our purpose at Wood School as setting up an environment that is supportive to learning and enables children to direct their own learning. Within Wood School’s daily structure, children have a large degree of choice as to what they do. Crucially they have time and space to develop their play and ideas.

Reflecting on what has happened at the end of each day, we support children to follow through on their ideas and have a culture of allowing time for children to get deeply into their ‘work’ and finish what they are making and doing.


Creating a thriving community

We believe children learn best when they feel safe and feel valued. At Wood School we foster a sense of community – or even of family. It’s important to us that the children on each day are a mixed group – of different ages, ethnicity and genders. We enjoy seeing friendships forming across the group – spanning the whole age range of our children – from four years old to eleven.

As adults we seek to model positive parenting and leadership. We play with the children as well holding a safe, structured place for them to learn. We strive at all times to demonstrate respect, kindness and care in our interactions with the children.

We seek to help the children develop a growing competence in a range of skills and areas of knowledge. We foster their sense of independence and self worth. We also support them to contribute to Wood School – experiencing a sense of generosity, care for others and ultimately a sense of belonging.


Everyone has intrinsic worth

As adults at Wood School we strive to behave in a way that demonstrates everyone’s intrinsic worth. We work actively with children at Wood School to teach them skills to become emotionally fluent. We are aiming for children who value and understand themselves and other people.

Using an approach called Compassionate Communication we help children to articulate what they are feeling and need and to empathise with other people’s feelings and needs.

We are respectful of children’s individual interests, timings and needs but we encourage children to see their responsibilities to a community – everything from sharing in the washing up to leading their own activity.

Crucially we give time and space to resolving conflicts between the children. In these conflicts we try and understand the feelings and needs of all the children involved. We know from experience that challenging behaviour is usually children trying to express complex feelings or to trying and meet their needs – perhaps in ways that are difficult for others.

july 2011

When conflicts or problems arise at Wood School, we use Compassionate Communication (also known as Non Violent Communication). All our staff are trained or coached in in this work – and it is core to our practice.

Compassionate Communication helps the children to: notice and acknowledge what has happened when something goes wrong; express how they feel and hear how others feel; explore what it is they and others are needing; and to think creatively about how everyone’ needs can be met.

Linked to this, we view ‘challenging’ behaviour as a child striving to meet their needs and needing support to do this in more skilful ways. We do not operate a punishment or rewards system.

To support this approach we have three principles that underline our work at Wood School – which we worked out with the children in the early days. They are:

  • Take care of ourselves
  • Take care of others
  • Take care of the wood

We use these as reference points – from which we discuss with the children how we can be in the wood together in ways that reflects our core belief that everyone’s needs matter.

small foxy

G is for growing responsibility

Part of learning outside is about developing children’s ability to take care of themselves. Tying shoelaces … putting on a coat when its raining … drinking when thirsty … washing hands. As well we work to develop children’s care for each other and the wood – with our meal times key moments to talk through problems and find solutions.

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