Comparing Forest Kindergarten and Forest School

Forest Kindergarten and Forest School share a partial title, and an engagement with nature. They are however two very different courses, and this article lays out those differences.


Forest Kindergarten

The Forest Kindergarten qualification is around building skills and confidence around taking early years children off-site, into natural places and spaces on a regular basis. The ethos and approach is a rights-based and child-led pedagogy, building on early years educators’ existing skills. The aim is to integrate outdoor play experiences for all children in all early years and childcare settings. The qualification focusses on the process needed and skills of the early years practitioner to lead frequent outdoor play and learning, in natural environments, with early years children.

It is aimed at early years practitioners, already employed in early years and childcare settings, who wish to ensure that they are safe and thoughtful when heading off-site on a frequent basis. It builds on existing knowledge and practice, embedding off-site outdoor learning and play for all early years children in their setting. The total commitment is around 40 hours, including pre-course preparation, 3-day in-person training, and post-course portfolio submission.

Forest School

Forest School (Level 3 for the purposes of this comparison) is a specialised approach to developing confidence and self-esteem in participants. Forest School has to take place in a forest / woodland area and is concerned with the holistic development of all participants. It is not a curricular linked or led approach, and only takes place with small groups led by fully qualified Forest School Leaders. The qualification is broad and deep, engaging with pedagogy, the forest environment and human influence on those spaces. Find out more by reading the 6 Forest School Principles. The Forest School qualification covers all age groups, from early years through to adult. A Forest School Level 3 (the qualification required to set up and lead Forest School programmes) is a minimum of 180 hours, plus 16-hour first aid course. This includes wider reading, in-person training, assessment and submission of a significant portfolio.

Neither qualification is exclusive or indeed in any sequence. A Forest Kindergarten holder may choose to also take a Forest School Level 3, and indeed a Forest School Level 3 holder may choose to take a Forest Kindergarten award.


If you would like your setting, group or authority to host Forest Kindergarten training for up to 20 people, please get in touch with Dan Harvey at

Below is a summary table of the differences, however the ethos and aims of each qualification should be the defining factor for all considering one of the qualifications.

Click on the images to download a PDF version of the table.


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