Forest learning zone step closer

Councillors Jonathan Brash(left) and Chris Simmons.
Councillors Jonathan Brash(left) and Chris Simmons.

INNOVATIVE plans to create a new outdoor learning space for children at a Hartlepool primary school have moved a step closer to reality.

Rossmere Primary School is looking to create the school forest which could see an eco-classroom, outdoor amphitheatre and stepping stones built over three quarters of an acre of land that backs on to Callander Road and Catcote Road.

Senior officers say the project, which will be used by school children across the town, will be the envy of schools up and down the country.

It comes after Hartlepool Borough Council’s children’s services committee gave its backing to the plans.

They will now go before the finance and policy committee for final approval.

The children’s services committee had already met once to discuss the proposals, but a decision was deferred until they had received further information.

Labour councillor Chris Simmons, chairman of the committee, said the scheme has been supported by education and council chiefs in the town.

He said: “The project is well supported by schools in the town and committee members were impressed by the plans.

“Although it will be based at Rossmere, it will be a town-wide facility and this facility will be the envy of schools up and down the country.”

Gill Alexander, director of child and adult services at the council, said: “This will help put Hartlepool on the map.”

If agreed by the finance and policy committee, the project would still be subject to planning permission approval from the local authority.

Education chiefs say forest schools can help boost self-esteem and self-confidence, improve interaction and give children a greater understanding of the natural environment.

If it does eventually go ahead then other schools would be involved including nearby St Teresa’s Primary School, in Callander Road, and also the nearby children’s community centre, while other schools across Hartlepool can also book slots.

Hartlepool Borough Council will be contributing to the overall cost of the scheme, which is yet to be revealed ahead of a tendering exercise, while schools in Hartlepool are also contributing funding through the school’s capital sub-group.

A report by Dean Jackson, assistant director of education, said: “Should a scheme be approved, the local authority would agree a contribution from school towards the scheme which is in line with the shared funding principles established by the Schools Forum.”