Speaking with an older student recently I asked them to reflect on the time spent at Running Deer and I was intrigued when they enthusiastically responded with…
“Oh, it’s changed loads. There’s more structure now and I know what I’m doing and where I need to be.”
For many of our learners the world is an unpredictable and unsafe environment and we strive to provide them with an educational experience that works as an exploration of possibilities, at their own pace and true to their own needs.
Delivering a safe space
To deliver this we must first deliver a ‘safe space’ to all our students. Along with the therapeutic work we do, the ‘reliability’ of the day and the tranquility of the woodland environment, all help create a school our students want to thrive in.
We have the opportunity to help them discover new and exciting things, develop awesome skills and start to build a foundation of self-worth and self-belief. By using visual timetables and structured days, tailored and balanced for the individual, we are giving meaning and purpose to the whole of the day.
This ‘safety net’ is another way to support our young people to live their best lives.
Programmes such as No Outsiders and The Emotional Curriculum, provide an opportunity to explore ideas about the world and how we, as human’s exist within that. Be that sharing chapatis around the campfire or learning about the weird ways our minds and bodies speak to us.
The core of Maths, English and Science taught in line with the National Curriculum enable them to escape the trap of leaving foundation education with no qualifications, a stigma leading to a wrong belief of failure. We also have ASDAN qualifications in our arsenal, these short-course practical projects are ideal for generating a feeling of achievement and value in the work they produce.
The creativity of the projects, the variety of activities and presentations is simply stunning.
We can see our students grow and progress when previously they may have been ‘stuck’, they may have been scared, they weren’t thriving. As they find the courage to overcome their barriers we can signpost a more positive outcome by holding to a structure, giving shape and direction and providing a secure base to help them reach for their goals.
The difference is as our ‘old boy’ put it, without timetables and structured activities it’s “like a tangled knot of cables”.