Thrive’s work with young people with special educational needs gains momentum

A gardening programme helping young people with special educational needs (SEN) in Kings Heath Park, Birmingham run by the charity Thrive has been praised and received a grant of almost £20,000 from The Rowan Trust.

Thrive uses gardening to bring about positive changes in the lives of people living with disabilities or ill health, or who are isolated, disadvantaged or vulnerable.

The charity – which has gardens in London, Reading, Birmingham and Gateshead – works with people recovering from injuries, those with learning difficulties or physical or sensory impairment, people with mental illness or with age-related diseases, and young people with behavioural difficulties.

Thrive also runs therapeutic programmes in community settings such as village halls, schools and hospitals, which are designed to improve physical and psychological health, strengthen personal, life and vocational skills and reduce social isolation.

The Grow and Learn programme in Birmingham offers practical training in gardening to support young people (aged 14-19) with SEN and complex needs. It helps them develop personal and life skills, improve their work skills and allows them to study a City & Guilds qualification in horticulture (Level 1 Practical Horticulture skills or Level 1 in Work-Based Horticulture depending on ability).

The Rowan Trust said they were very impressed by the project and Elizabeth Robinson visited Thrive and said: “I was delighted to see these young people as they learn from the experienced horticultural therapists at Thrive and look forward to seeing how they develop.”

Horticultural therapists work with students once a week in the classroom and helps them develop practical gardening skills and learn about healthy living and lifestyles.  Thrive expects them to develop confidence and self-esteem and the charity’s approach is tailored to enable students to progress at their own speed.

Angela MacVeigh, deputy head at Chadsgrove School whose pupils attend Thrive said: “I was so impressed with all that you are achieving at Thrive and I can see why the pupils like it so much.”

Thrive’s horticultural therapists work with students and their support team to establish individual needs and aspirations, then create Individual Development Programmes (IDPs) to ensure outcomes are achieved.

Several teachers have reported an increase in their student’s participation in other activities as their confidence grows and they share successes with their classmates.

Amanda Fields Thrive regional manager in Birmingham, said: “Students on Grow and Learn face real disadvantage.  They are young people with high support needs and whilst they may aspire to gain and hold down a job, many will struggle to achieve this goal.

“In the transition to adult life, children with a learning disability and complex needs are disadvantaged; they are often socially excluded and can live with a sense of failure and under-achievement.

“Alienation from their peers results in higher truancy rates, which exacerbate poor academic achievement.  Grow and Learn is designed to fill a gap to help these young people by offering informal learning in an out-of-school environment.

“It aims to improve their life chances and place them in a stronger position to discover new skills and talents, which will move them on.

“Without support these young people can feel their choices are limited – with many feeling that their only option as an adult is to attend a day centre.  We are helping to prepare them to take the next step, whether that is into further training, volunteering, or employment.”

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