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The role of Forest School in mental health and wellbeing: a longitudinal study (Ref: SF20/SER/ALLIN)

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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Dr L Allin Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The aim of this studentship will be to examine how nature based programmes, such as Forest School, can impact on the mental health and wellbeing of children and/or adults. Who benefits and are there any negative experiences? What are the processes that lead to change, if there is any? Is there a gender dimension to Forest School access, experiences or outcomes? The project would potentially use a mix of qualitative and quantitative data collection and take a longitudinal approach.

In recent years, the importance of outdoor and nature based activity has become recognised as having an important role to address issues in modern society where the amount of time children have in outdoor free play has declined significantly, and where it is argued that we have developed a ‘disconnect’ with our natural environment (Waite, 2011). In the UK, this has stimulated a rise in Forest Schools, underpinned by the Scandinavian concept of Frilutsliv (free air life) and the Danish uderskole (outdoor school) and delivered by trained Forest School leaders, both within and outside mainstream educational provision. There is an increasing body of literature examining the value and mental health outcomes from Forest School in different populations (Gill, 2014) but there is a need for more robust methodologies that take into consideration contextual aspects (Leather, 201) and longitudinal studies with different populations, including healthy, as well as ‘at risk’ groups (Tilmann, Tobin, Avison, Gilliland, 2018).

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g., SF20/…) will not be considered.
Deadline for applications: Open
Start Date: October 2020 or March 2021
Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.
For enquiries, please contact Dr Linda Allin ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

Please note, this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend; the studentship is available to Students Worldwide. Fee bands are available at . A relevant fee band will be discussed at interview based on project running costs


Allin, Linda, West, Amanda and Curry, Stephanie (2014) Mother and child constructions of risk in outdoor play. Leisure Studies. pp. 1-14. ISSN 0261-4367
Prince, Heather, Allin, Linda, Sandseter, Ellen Beate Hansen and Ärlemalm-Hagsér, Eva (2013) Editorial: Outdoor play and learning in early childhood from different cultural perspectives. Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning, 13 (3). pp. 183-188.

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