A teacher switched his indoor classroom to helping children safely explore the great outdoors. Olly White completed a mining degree before his teacher training but after 13 years in the profession he decided to change direction. He said: “I was teaching science in a secondary school in Bolton, was Head of Year, but I felt the profession was more about number crunching and less about the children, what I enjoyed about teaching was the pastoral side.”
Olly, 44, from Rawtenstall, decided to set up Olly’s Woodland Learning in 2014 and that led not only to a complete change in his working life but it resulted in him winning the Sole Trader trophy at the 2018 Rossendale Business Awards. Nominations for this year’s awards – the 10th that organisers Valley at Work have arranged – close on Wednesday October 23.
Olly said: “There is a big difference between outdoor learning and forest school. Forest School, when it is run properly, is child led. It doesn’t have a lesson plan or a clear objective apart from the development of the of the child as person.”
He trained in Birkenhead, Sheffield and the Peak District and now is employed mostly in Rossendale usually using school’s own facilities. If required, he uses areas around Ski Rossendale, Bowley Scout Camp and has even held a forest school session in back garden. As an Explorer Scout Leader for the last 10 years at Seat Naze, Olly is no stranger to the great outdoors and camping. That ethos of the uniformed movements has been transferred to his new role.
He said: “At the business awards when I was with the other finalists last year, I didn’t feel worthy to be on that stage and then it was a massive shock when they announced my name as the winner. I got lots of positive feedback comments and it was nice to be able to shout about it. First and foremost I am a teacher and when I get asked what subject I teach I say I am a teacher of the child. I get feedback from schools to say that the pupils I have worked with are now coping better in the classroom and have more confidence. In November I will be completing a course on therapy skills which I will be using to help disaffected children, those with autism and special needs.”
He has worked in more than 22 schools on a day and after school basis and also taught teachers and teaching assistants how to deliver forest schools. Olly currently has three after school clubs, a number of other weekly clients and is looking into provide Forest School for pre-school children.
Story by Catherine Smyth Media