Meet the Leaders

Ellen Blackwood

Ellen is the director of Primary Forest School & Outdoor Education. Having completed her Level 3 Forest School Leader qualification she is very passionate about providing forest school experiences for primary school children across south west England. 

Ellen has graduated with a Sport, Physical Activity and Exercise degree from Durham University and has also completed a Masters by research at Exeter University having investigated the benefits of dinghy sailing for young people. 

Alongside Primary Forest School Ellen runs the Dorset Franchise for sports. Ellen’s sporting qualifications include Level 2 Basketball Coach, Level 1 Netball and Volleyball, and also a fully qualified sailing instructor as well as holding the Forest Schools qualification. Ellen has several years of coaching experience and led sessions in a variety of sports including multi-skills, athletics, dodgeball and rocket ball. She has spent 6 weeks in Zambia coaching netball, basketball and volleyball and 2 months in America working in an underprivileged camp as a lifeguard and swim teacher. Ellen’s own sporting background consists of playing in the National League basketball, and playing locally in netball and basketball whilst taking a leisurely approach to sail when she can.

Ellen enjoys the challenge of teaching in diverse environments which makes her suited to delivering forest schools. Her strengths are being adaptable within her sessions and ensuring the participants are having fun whilst learning. 

Emily Stiles

Emily has been a primary school teacher for 18 years. After graduating with an Arts and Education degree at Bretton Hall College (University of Leeds), she trained at South Bank University and worked in South East London where she stayed for 10 years; working with a rich variety of children and families. She returned to her native Dorset in 2009 and has never looked back!

Emily is incredibly passionate about the outdoors and looks for ways to incorporate it into her teaching practise as often as possible. The move to Primary Forest School has been an exciting one and she is very keen to be involved in nurturing children with greater accessibility to the natural environment with all that that involves!

Completing her Level 3 Forest School training this summer has been a hugely rewarding experience for Emily. She is keen to develop her own practise and theory, alongside the new learners that will be with her. 

In her own time, Emily is a wife, a mother and a dog owner! She enjoys long family walks in the woods, lino printing, felting, painting and baking. Recently, she's tried her hand at SUP but won't let being not very good at it put her off! 

Emma Stephens

Emma has worked in conservation for 19 years which includes schools outreach project work for the RSPB, Dormouse monitoring with a licence from Natural England and a Forest School Level 3 qualification.

Emma is always excited to share her love of nature, the natural world and simply being outside. With a focus on natural exploration and awareness of surroundings; Emma finds the innate fascination from young people in green spaces especially inspiring.

Emma can be found with her family, dog and ponies when not at work, maintaining hedgerows, ponds and paddocks! A gentle jog at the weekend with friends and dog keeps the energy levels up…

Ellis Holt

Ellis has a background in outdoor learning. Having run a residential activity centre for children and being a qualified primary school teacher, he brings both aspects to his sessions; giving children well-balanced sessions of: exploration, fun, education and hands-on experiences.

Ellis graduated from Exeter University with a degree in Chemistry. He has subsequently gained coaching qualifications in Kayaking and Canoeing (Level 1 Coach), Archery (Instructor) and Dodgeball (Level 2 Coach). While running the activity centre, he worked with children from 6 years old up to young adults studying for their college courses. He helped train them to gain their young leader sports qualifications and complete their voluntary hours for public services courses. 

Ellis has developed outdoor learning sessions related to the National Curriculum and was a key member of the team that acquired 'Learning Outside the Classroom' accreditation for the centre. He loves the outdoors and truly believes in varied styles of learning; giving young people chances to experience the world in many different ways. One of Ellis' strengths is inclusion; adapting his sessions to allow for child-led learning and making sure all pupils have access to learn and achieve equally. 

Hugh Clifford

Hugh has spent much of the last 7 years leading groups in the outdoors on the water and in the woods. He has worked with School Intervention and as a Youth Mentor. He has a fun loving approach and likes to run around in the woods as much as the kids. 

Hugh has a Forest School leader level 3 qualification and back in 2011 spent a year learning bushcraft and survival skills with the Trackways School in Sussex.  He is also a qualified skipper and spends the warmer months guiding canoe journeys on the River Dart.

When not at ‘work’, he can be found bobbing about on the ocean in a sailing boat or on a surfboard.  He has 3 children who, luckily enough, enjoy being in the outdoors!

Aoife Thorogood

One of our more recently joined team members, Aoife is a part-time forest school leader and part-time clinical dietitian working in the NHS. She graduated in 2017 with a Masters in Nutrition & Dietetics and with a final year project that focused on the outcomes of a diet that effectively reduces seizures in children with epilepsy.  

Aoife's inclination to be outdoors and working with children originates from her background rooted in Somerset as a nationally competing athlete for over 10 years and experience as a Level 1 athletic coach. At the age of 18 whilst living on a small Maldivian island, she lead zumba classes for local muslim women and produced educational resources on dental health, diet and exercise for school children.

In 2019 she trained to be a bushcraft instructor and spent 6 months leading camps of children in a woodland environment to help them learn how to survive in the wilderness. She enjoys inspiring young people to enhance both their mental and physical resilience and appreciation for the natural world. 

In her own time Aoife enjoys hiking trips with friends, sewing and dancing non-stop! 



Clare Harrison

 Clare has been working in outdoor education for over 25 years!  She started at a young age volunteering at her local Country Park and Wildlife Trust whilst studying for a degree in Countryside Management.  She subsequently worked as a countryside ranger for organisations such as the National Trust and county councils during which time, she helped to educate hundreds of school children and infuse them with some of her own passion for the outdoors.  Even her world travels led her to work with underprivileged children in Cusco, Peru and teaching English in a Cambodian orphanage.  With motherhood in later life came a period of leading home school groups and a passion for natural crafts such as carding and felting wool and making natural dyes. It was also during this time that she began to forge her love of stories and storytelling and to develop ways of helping children to create their own magical adventures, inspired by wild things and wild places. She trained as a Forest School leader in 2017 with a level 3 qualification and has been working for Primary Forest School since March 2019. Clare brings together an in-depth knowledge of the natural world with a large range of bushcraft and natural craft skills and most of all a real passion for working with children outdoors in nature. In her personal life she is never happier than when in or on the water, wild swimming, canoeing, kayaking and dinghy sailing, something she’s literally roped her whole family into!


Claire Harding

Claire has spent many years as a primary teacher, having completed a psychology degree at Plymouth University and then a PGCE at The University of Greenwich. She has taught in a variety of settings; playschemes, nurseries, mainstream and special needs schools in a variety of places including London, Bristol, Spain and her home county of Dorset.

More recently Claire’s life path has taken her in a different direction, and she has trained as a children’s yoga teacher. She can be found running family yoga sessions as well as children’s clubs with her business 'Forest Yogi Minds'.

Claire completed her Level 3 Forest School Leader training recently and is extremely passionate about providing sessions outdoors which incorporate the children’s interests, developing skills, exploring and taking care of our environment as well as sharing her love of learning, nature and natural crafts.

She has a a son who also loves anything outdoors (phew!) and has many other interests including, yoga, walking, playing the ukulele, crafts, reiki and more recently paddle boarding as well as of course anything outdoors!


Becky Holman

Becky has been a self-motivated instructor for most of her working career. It has been of the utmost importance to be able to encourage people to move and keep their minds as well as their bodies active.

After initially qualifying in basic exercise to music, she decided to explore other avenues where she could use her qualifications. She took her skills to many nursery and school settings within Bristol and set up regular fitness sessions within the nurseries for the children.

The children’s classes led Becky to work for an independent school in Bristol, as a Physical Development specialist. This role required her to plan classes, risk assess sessions and write reports on the progress of the children. Becky has always worked in holiday clubs, providing outdoor education and fitness activities throughout the summer holidays.

In her role as a Personal Trainer, Becky works with some physically limited clients, as well as people wanting to train for sports specific aims. Becky qualified for this role at the grand old age of 44, helping people who would never have the confidence to attend group classes or the gym. She visits clients in their homes and trains them in their own environments, where they are comfortable. As Becky progressed through her career, she worked extensively outdoors, using parks and woodlands to teach PE classes, PT sessions and explorers groups. The opportunity arose to shadow a fellow colleague who was running forest school sessions at one of the nurseries. When her colleague moved on Becky seized the opportunity to run the outdoor education programme.

After completing her Level 3 Forest School qualification she went on to launch an additional outdoor education programme at the beach, only one of two Beach schools in Bristol.

In her part time role as an adult fitness instructor, Becky teaches people of all ages and abilities, classes being as much about community and friendship as well as fitness.

In her spare time, Becky is a keen painter and enjoys long cycle rides as well as long walks. She has two boys and two cats and lives with her partner in the Victorian town of Clevedon, North Somerset.



We pride ourselves in our team ethic to learn and develop new skills. Our team meet regularly to discuss our practise and experiences. Coming from a variety of different backgrounds; it is vitally important that we share our successes and build on challenges that we meet along the way. Forest School is always developing and we will never be complacent that our knowledge is complete! 

Career Opportunities

Primary Forest School & Outdoor Education can offer an accelerated development pathway for ambitious leaders looking to progress within the sector. We offer an excellent training and reward package to get leaders up to speed. Leaders can start off by undertaking afterschool club commitments. When desired, in school PPA/CPD cover can be taught to further increase hours on offer for coaches. This could potentially then lead onto additional responsibilities within the company. These include becoming a development leader to ensure good standards across all schools, responsibility of organising event days such as International Forest Day. 

Work Experience – Year 10 & 11 pupils can assist alongside lead coaches within forest school sessions to see the structure of lessons and how lessons are delivered. 

Volunteers – Volunteers can come and help within lessons by setting up equipment, helping with warm ups and games based activities. We ask frequently for parent/ volunteers to assist in particular sessions such as tool use, camp fires and nature walks.

Lead coach – A lead coach will be expected to plan and deliver lessons across the whole range of the forest school subjects. 

Development Leader – Alongside lead coach responsibilities a development leader will be in charge of nurturing the development of leaders.


We are currently recruiting across Devon, Dorset and Somerset.

Please email a CV to ellen.blackwood@primary-forest-school.co.uk

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