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. 

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. 

Ellis joined Primary Forest School in 2019 and works in our East Devon schools.

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…

Emma joined Primary Forest School in 2018 and works in our East Dorset schools.

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.

Becky joined Primary Forest School in 2020 and work in our Somerset schools.

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! 

Aoife joined Primary Forest School in 2020 and works in our Devon schools

Brandon Phillips

Brandon has been volunteering in primary school education for the last 10 years while studying. He has just recently graduated from the University of Roehampton with a degree in education. Prior to completing his degree, Brandon discovered outdoor education while participating in summer camps in America where he was an age group leader. While at summer camps, Brandon led activities such as archery, kayaking, outdoor cooking and outdoor survival.

Similarly, when not working, Brandon can be found enjoying nature through his favourite activities which are hiking and water sports. He also has a background in sport, studying A-Level PE and playing rugby for over 12 years. 

Brandon looks forward to using his background in education in this new and outdoor environment as he strongly believes that outdoor education is crucial in promoting positive wellbeing for children, an area in which he specialised in his degree.

Brandon joined Primary Forest School in 2021 and works in our Dorset schools. 

Katie White

Katie has always had a love for the outdoors and began her outdoor career with a summer at Camp America where she was a camp counsellor, lifeguard and taught swimming.  She then went on to complete a degree in Outdoor Recreation Management.  Since then she has enjoyed working at various outdoor centres teaching Kayaking, Climbing, Sailing, Archery and Team Building. 

Whilst working at a local leisure centre as a Duty manager, she also taught Aqua Fit, Swimming and Bikeability.

She is currently a Director of her own business, which runs alongside being a forest school leader and keeps her very busy!  In her spare time she likes to be out sailing, paddle boarding or cycling with her husband and two boys. 

Katie joined Primary Forest School in 2021 and works in our Bridport schools. 

Waheeda Rahman

Every child has a right to outdoor education and we as adults should be a guide and support their learning!

We should provide children with the best opportunities to promote positive learning and self-esteem. Forest school allows every child an opportunity to explore the natural world around them and gain a sense of belonging in their environment.

I have always believed forest school allows children to learn in a different and more 'fun' way. Children can express themselves in a different style. I have always had a passion for pastoral care within education and I believe forest school provides this as the leaders are seen as 'guides' rather than teachers to children. 

Waheeda will be working in our Birmingham area schools.


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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