Evaluating a case for Revisionism in contemporary Forest Schooling in England
: A qualitative study of contemporary Forest School

  • Hayley Bullard

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study investigates the development of the Forest School [FS] movement in education. Tokenistic uses of the FS approach have emerged (McCree, 2019) causing the pedagogical principles, child-centred and play-based learning, to become diluted (Leather, 2018). The movement’s alignment with mainstream education has been important for gaining interest and acceptance of the approach. However, this has come at a cost of its pedagogical principles and influenced instrumental practice. Therefore, this research analyses a case for revisionism in the FS approach. Taking inspiration from the revisionist Froebelians, whose ability to adapt to modern practices, through revising and strengthening the original Froebelian principles, secured a more authentic continuation of the Froebelian kindergarten approach. Thus, there is much the FS movement can learn from the progression of the Froebelian kindergarten movement. A systematic historical exploration of the two movements in England, through reviewing literature, demonstrated two recurring themes in the progression of the approaches. The two themes, instrumental perspectives and revisionist perspectives, informed the development of the thesis’s conceptual framework, The Instrumental and Revisionist critical lens, as the study’s original contribution to knowledge. Interrogation of the critical lens, as an analytic tool to explore the development of FS, was applied to the discussion of the study’s empirical data. The study uses an interpretivist, constructivist approach to qualitative methods including interviews and participant observations with four FS practitioners. The study found that relationships between FS practitioners and their settings of employment was influential in their negotiation between instrumental and revisionist perspectives in FS pedagogy. Revisionist perspectives underpinned the practitioners’ understanding of FS pedagogy, however, instrumental perspectives underpinned practice. The research found that the practitioners actively engaged in softening the impact of instrumental perspectives on children’s learning experiences to maintain the FS pedagogical principles in practice.
Date of Award17 Jan 2024
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorEmma Salter (Main Supervisor) & Dimi Kaneva (Co-Supervisor)

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