Children suffering from poor mental health as a result of the pandemic could be one of the reasons behind higher demand for outdoor classroom activities, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust believes.

Youth education and wellbeing manager for the trust, Gail Grimes said: “Sadly since Covid, we’ve seen an increase in referrals because there are more children struggling with their mental health, particularly for those that have gone on to secondary school.

“That transition from primary school to secondary school is a very difficult transition, and it has been made so much more difficult by Covid.”

She is concerned various lockdowns and Covid restrictions have started to have an effect on the way children cope with day-to-day classroom life.

She explained: “There’s so much isolation. There are children that have been at home and haven’t necessarily been amongst their friends.

“For some children, they’ve lost so much confidence to be around other people and to transition back into school life.”

Most of the organisation’s referrals have come for young people that need a different kind of outlet in which to thrive.

The idea of forest schools is to encourage children to learn new skills in a setting where they are free to problem-solve and think of new ideas without being restricted by the four walls and environment of a school classroom.

“It’s a play-based methodology of outdoor learning,” Gail explained.

“Forest school is not about the curriculum. It’s about children playing, and learning through play.”

Wiltshire Wildlife Trust works with many children who struggle with the day-to-day process of schooling and have complex learning or emotional needs.

It gives them a more focused experience by taking them out into nature reserves so they can work in an open setting.

The trust also works with larger groups and whole classes or nurture groups, running sessions on school grounds.

But while living with the pandemic has brought challenges for children at school, there is an upside and the trust is grateful that more people are realising the value of nature in their lives.

Gail said: “I think a lot of people have now found what’s on their doorstep which is fantastic.”

She said she was encouraged by the number of schools taking on board the benefits of outdoor learning over the last couple of years.

“Teachers are becoming more aware of mental health, and how they can help the wellbeing of children.

“In those early stages of Covid, when the government said you’re less likely to catch it outside, lots of teachers realised they could actually teach their lessons in a different setting,” she added.

“So we just need it to continue, and teachers can realise the benefits of actually getting outdoors with their classes.”