New Leaf Learning at Courteenhall

In 2021 we started working with local SENCo Alex Preston to develop a scheme to support primary school children across the county who are struggling to engage in education.

Piloted with research-based trials over two years at Courteenhall, the charity New Leaf Learning uses nature-based outdoor learning techniques to help students with anxiety and trauma to become more confident and gives them safe spaces to thrive.

Each child goes through the TRUST Programme, which stands for Trying, Resilience, Understanding & empathy, Self-regulation and Teamwork. This supports childhood growth in the classroom, with a view to seeing these children progress into adulthood as valued members of local communities and the local workforce.

They take part in slackline, den-building, whittling, gardening, cooking, arts and crafts, animal welfare, pond-dipping and fire in the grounds of the Estate during the programme.

Every session includes learning self-regulation techniques through breathing properly, yoga and meditation with accredited trainers. The children are immersed in nature, learning new self-nurture skills, as well as helping to look after plants and animals.

Uniquely, the charity also requires that parents engage in training themselves. This training aims to provide strategies for managing anxiety as well as receiving support for behaviour management and self-regulation.

Teachers and support staff are also trained in trauma-informed practice and methods, enhancing the therapeutic learning experience of both the children and the parents.

Our data shows they have all reported significant improvements in their ability to understand, support and address the needs of vulnerable children. Schools have reported excellent results in the classroom and every school has re-booked. We have a long waiting list, despite requiring schools to part-fund.

In 2024 the Historic Houses Learning Advisory Panel shortlisted Courteenhall Estate for the Frances Garnham Award for innovative educational work.

Find out more about New Leaf Learning

New Leaf campfire

We’re making a difference

Parents of children who have taken part have praised the New Leaf Learning programme for the difference it makes and said, ‘it should be part of the school curriculum and every child’s childhood’.

Other parents have noticed a ‘profound change’ in their children, that they’re ‘much calmer in communicating their feelings’, ‘open to trying new things’ and are ‘proud of what they have learnt and achieved’.

Our graduates have described it as “the best experience of my life”, “a safe space” and “we learn not to give up”.

“My daughter and I feel truly privileged to have been part of the TRUST Programme and have taken so much from it. Alex you are an insightful leader and have created something rather magical here.”


“Morgan’s (not real name) behaviour was transformed by the programme. He had a very positive Year 6 and has gone on to secondary school like a different child.”

SENCo Earls Barton Primary

“This is an excellent programme. It has the power to change lives, schools and communities…It would be brilliant to get as many staff as possible to get hands on experience of the TRUST Programme, especially staff who may not be as pre-disposed to this way of working."

Head Teacher, Hawksmoor Learning Trust, following whole staff training



The Lord-Lieutenant of Northamptonshire James Saunders Watson visited Courteenhall to see the pioneering work being done in our grounds. He also met seven children who had completed the programme and presented them with their certificates.

He said: “The TRUST programme is proving so effective in helping those young children who have found engagement with the education system a challenge.”

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Dr Johnny Wake, Managing Partner of Courteenhall, is also Chair of Trustees for New Leaf Learning. Courteenhall Estate also meets all the administration costs of the charity and part-funds the overall costs. 

He said: “We’re incredibly proud to be supporting Alex Preston and New Leaf Learning and to see the real difference that the charity is making to children in Northamptonshire.

“It’s genuinely amazing to see how each child develops during the course of the five-week programme, and how these benefits continue well after they leave us. 

“Seeing them run wild, climb trees, engage with agriculture and with the land is really, really rewarding. It’s bridging that urban/rural divide, which is becoming ever bigger.

“There’s a huge demand for this - and we have a number of schools on our waiting list - which is why we’d like to grow the service, to reach and help more children and their families.

“To make the courses more affordable for schools, half of the costs are covered by local businesses. We’re very keen to hear from more companies interested in getting involved in supporting us, so that we can have even more of an impact.”

If you would like to know more, please get in touch here, or email

Our Supporters

What our supporters say

“We were delighted to support New Leaf Learning with a grant to help establish the programme at Courteenhall. You are making such a difference to the children who attend.”

Roger Douglas, CLA Charitable Trust

“We are proud to have supported New Leaf Learning. The work they do to support young children struggling in schools is really important and will have a big impact on that child for their future.”

Ian Metcalf, Metcalf Commercial Decorators


“We’re delighted to support New Leaf Learning. They’re a truly worthy charity which is making a real difference to the mental health of children who are struggling in education. It’s such a worthy cause.”

David Cockroft, Regional Director, Harworth Group

"I was so impressed to hear the positive impact New Leaf Learning has on children in our community. We often take open spaces and nature for granted but when you see the power of what this can do for children it’s very inspiring."

John Brownhill, Director of People & Technologies


"Exceptional good cause to support"

Louise Moriarty, Director

"A commitment to be a force for societal good is integral to SEGRO’s purpose and strategy. That’s why supporting causes like this is so important to us. We are committed to contributing to the long-term vitality of our communities and are very pleased to contribute to the incredible work that New Leaf Learning provides to local children in Northampton."

Dan Holford, Head of National Logistics at SEGRO