5 Oct 2022

Chief Forester celebrates success with award winning primary schools

Pupils at Grandtully and Priorsford Primary Schools were recently visited by the Chief Forester for Scotland, Dr Helen McKay, to celebrate their recent successes in the Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards.

Grandtully (Perthshire) and Priorsford (Peeblesshire) were joint winners of the Schools Award which recognises achievements in connecting local woodlands and learning within education establishments.

Dr McKay was keen to meet the pupils who won the award and encourage more schools to get involved in next year’s awards.

She said: “The pupils and teachers at the schools have worked hard to use their woodland space for learning about forestry and the environment.  They are a  shining example of what we think many other schools across could achieve.

“Although we have had an increase in applications for the Schools Award, we think there is potential to build on this and I would encourage other schools to get involved - they could be next year’s winners.”

Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards has two prestigious categories in the education sector – the Schools Award and Early Years Award. Both awards celebrate and recognise success in using woodland space as part of learning.

Priorsford Teacher and Forest School co-ordinator Michelle Fraser said:

“The positive impact of being able to spend time in the woodland space connecting with nature, with themselves and with each other has been evident on our children at Priorsford.

“Back in school the children have regular opportunities to be part of our school garden where they can assist in the planting of growing of different produce which they love being involved in. Staff and parents have all commented on how relaxed, engaged and content our young people are when interacting with the natural world.”

Ciara Gibson, class teacher at Grandtully Primary School commented:

“In being outside more often we all notice more. We notice when the berries first start forming, when the leaves first start falling. So many of these things we didn’t notice before COVID.

“After the first lockdown we moved pretty much all learning outdoors. It’s made a huge difference to the way we learn.

“The next step is to get a Yurt so we are able to withstand the wind that does effect the site, then we be much less reliant on the indoor space.”

From planting, growing and making products from trees, along with harvesting fruit grown in school grounds, pupils, staff and many volunteers have expanded their knowledge of the forest sector.

Getting young pupils involved in forestry at an early age will increase their interest and understanding of the natural environment and their community.