School report: Lons Infant School, Ripley

Woodland schools: Lons infants in their woodland.
Woodland schools: Lons infants in their woodland.

A new school woodland area has opened up a magical world of learning for a set of Ripley youngsters.

The staff and parents of Lons Infants School on Tavistock Avenue in the town have spent the past two years renovating a run-down patch of greenery on its grounds.

With the planting of 130 native trees courtesy of the Woodland Trust, a mass clearance of litter and weeds and the building of pathways on the grounds – the pupils, aged between four and seven are starting to make the most of the new site.

Since March two trained teachers have been running forest school classes in the woods, teaching children to use their imagination through fun lessons of den-making, wood-whittling and bug-hunting. Reception teacher Karen Barber said they have been running forest lessons since 2008, but previously youngsters would have to go to woodlands further afield such as Shaw Wood in Oakerthorpe on a minibus.

“It’s really made it a lot more convenient.” Mrs Barber said. “I think it’s really important. We’ve been out doing forest schools for quite a while, but it’s so much better now having it next door.”

Previously the on-site woods had become a hotspot for anti-social behaviour and drinking as it was not secured.

But with funding from the Big Lottery Fund Award for All scheme, security fencing now keeps the wildlife haven free of intruders. The renovation of the whole site cost just over £20,000 with funding also supplied by the county council and the Co-op.

For the youngsters though, it provides an exciting new educational avenue.

The lessons involve children getting to grips with small tools - such as using a potato peeler to whittle wood, building dens, planting greenery and plenty of team building outdoor games.

“It’s great for interacting and getting them to respect the outdoors.” Mrs Barber said.

“I think it’s really important, children don’t always have the opportunities to be outside like we did decades ago. They can get out and get first hand experience of the outdoors.”

Head teacher Amanda Godber is also pleased with the wood. She said: “I’m very proud of it, it’s been a long time coming but we are very happy. I can’t wait for us to get in there and use it as much as we possibly can.”

The opening of the woodlands also marks a bit of a purple patch for the Tavistock Avenue School - having just ‘Good’ Ofsted report.

“Teaching standards, pupil’s achievement and the schools environment were all praised,” by the government watchdogs, said chair of governors Tracey Slack.