Prior to the trip this student had a considerable amount of negative points on his school record, with a total of 41 negative behaviour points this school year - the majority of these points being awarded for defiance, non-compliance and fighting. Having never met or worked with the student I was very wary about him being part of the group.
I can now say that he was probably the best behaved student there. He was polite and so helpful to the staff, without even being asked on some occasions. He showed such thoughtfulness to the animals, and was generally just a lovely little boy.
I really couldn’t believe that the child with us, at the farm, was the one described on his school record. The environment and activities at the farm obviously brought out the very best in him.
Also, and very significant, is the fact that since our return to school he has had no negative behaviours logged, but has had 22 positive behaviours. This experience appears to have made a hugely positive impact on this student.
K's Group Leader, Swindon
"I can not express how much these few days change our children. We have one boy this year who is very unstable and has been taken away from his mother recently and this atmosphere has taken him away from that and provided him with a little stability, even if it’s for just a few days. We have Another boy who will shortly be taken away from his home, as there is a lot of domestic and substance abuse at home. One has autism and has an obsession with plants- which is really handy being here, and a few more children with very complex needs, that doesn’t always meet the eye who are given a little stability and then we are seeing a different character"
"The Farm Project provides children (and staff) with a once in a life time opportunity to work and live on a farm for a week.
Like all schools must do, we questioned why only 10 children can attend and why 3 adults must also attend with such low quantities of children, but when you get there and get involved, you understand why.
The trip allows you to see sides of children you never knew (very stereotypical, but true). We took children who were not academically strong and not at age related targets, children with family issues and other children who needed to work in teams and bring out confidence. All of these children changed within this week and this has then helped them to develop a greater personal character. We took one boy in particular who is far from age related targets. A boy who in the classroom will not be able to succeed as much as his peers. It is for this reason we took him. If we were talking about his involvement at the farm, he certainly would be top of the class! He thrived under a different learning environment. The farm distracts you from the cross- curricular maths and science that is used within farming activities like counting the eggs, weighing out flour and understanding about reproduction linking it in with milk. This particular boy was so hands on and involved, it was incredible to see.
We have really witnessed a number of children who attended the trip develop into a character we never knew they had."
Haydn Bettles, Food Education Co-ordinator, Armitage School, Manchester
We have visited Abbey Home Farm for two years in a row now and will definitely be coming back for a third. The children gain so much from the farm from harvesting fruit and vegetables, to milking cows to preparing and making all their own food. The whole residential from beginning to end provides the children with a unique, therapeutic and meaningful experience. It encourages the children to be resilient, as they are met with new challenges every day, and they learn to be reciprocal and pull together as a team. New friendships flourish and mealtimes are a very special occasion where conversation and independence are encouraged. Thank-you Abbey Home Farm – we were so lucky to find you!
Nic Cole, Assistant Headteacher & SENDCO, London
The year 7 and 8 SEN and Pupil Premium children were primarily students with self-confidence, anxiety, and social skills difficulties. The small group of six children meant that the children opened up about their experiences in a way that they felt unable to do within a whole class, or large group environment.
We saw visible differences in the students as their time on the farm progressed. We saw growth in confidence, and an improvement in social skills. The children bonded together with both their room partners and their working groups and the farm activities allowed for invaluable opportunities for team work. They showed amazing perseverance, which was rewarded with success, and a lot of fun and laughter.//
This trip gave the opportunity for positive learning in a wonderful environment which is relaxed and lead by a thoroughly dedicated team at the farm.
Janet Ackrill, Learning & Intervention Manager, Swindon
Pupil Premium children were assessed and specifically chosen to attend a two day residential trip to the farm in June 2016. The ratio of two adults to six children meant that the children opened up about their experiences in a way that they felt unable to do within a whole class environment. One of the children presented to the Governing Body, outlining her experience at the farm. She said she felt she was able to open up in class and wasn’t as shy. The very fact that she presented to a group of adults was testament in itself to how her confidence had grown. This growth in confidence was also evident in one of the other children in the group. He made particular friendships within the small group of children which has enhanced his day to day experiences in class. There has also been a rise in his attendance rate which has been historically poor. One of the children felt more accepted by his peer group on his return to school as he had bonded with children from other friendship groups whilst at the farm. Although it is too early to tell how this increase in confidence has affected results, increase in emotional wellbeing is evident.
Donna Eaton, Headteacher, Swindon
As a pupil referral unit we place great emphasis on helping our students recognise their own strengths and potential. We have a robust two year programme designed to instil a sense of ‘self-worth’. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication from both pupils and staff and we usually see a positive change start to occur with a couple of months.
To our delight what usually takes us months to see we actually saw in a couple of days.
Pupils had the opportunity to take part in ativities that will probably stay with them for the rest of their lives. Every pupil was captivated by at least one activity and it was a pleasure to see them develop before our eyes. We saw a group of challenging individuals turn into a team and work together for a common goal, preparing a meal completing a task or just having fun.
The experience has also helped with staff pupil relationships.
Lorraine Balmer, Tutor, Stratton Education Centre PRU, Swindon
The farm was the perfect place for our team to work together away from the usual interruptions of everyday life. More importantly, though, we spent time with each other – working things out, making decisions, making mistakes, trying out new experiences, facing fears, showing strengths, overcoming weaknesses, walking, laughing, cooking, eating…
The range of activities offered in getting to know aspects of the farm were a great ‘vehicle’ for our team to get to know each other a bit more. Opportunities for us to co-operate collectively by completing significant and purposeful tasks on the farm gave us the chance to learn about our own and each other’s strengths and weaknesses whilst at the same time learn about the farm. Everyone we met had time for us and gave us the knowledge to go away and think about what we had seen and contributed to. From collecting, grading and packing eggs to milking cows and gardening, we had the unique opportunity to learn about the importance of the way our food can be grown and produced, as well as the chance to talk and build relationships in a friendly, informal and safe environment.
By suggesting, encouraging and supporting us,the farm staff enabled us all to do some things we might otherwise never have done. We found strength and warmth in each other’s company. Finally, and equally significantly, our weekend at the farm enabled us to learn something about ourselves too.
Cristina, Teacher, Swindon
They learnt to be more self-sufficient, trust their strengths, challenge their weaknesses and interact well with everyone
Emma, Teacher, London