A Northamptonshire charity which supports primary school aged children who are struggling to engage in education has been launched.
New Leaf Learning uses nature-based outdoor learning to help students with anxiety and trauma to become more confident and gives them safe spaces to thrive.
After two years of research-based trials with primary schools across the county, the charity held its launch event at Courteenhall Estate in South Northamptonshire.
New Leaf Learning is home of the TRUST programme. TRUST stands for trying, resilience, understanding, self-regulation and teamwork and was designed to help students to become confident, happy adults who can engage in the workplace and make positive contributions to society.
Groups of five children at a time are offered opportunities (one day a week over five weeks) to develop five key skills whilst participating in engaging, nature-based activities, including den-building, pond-dipping and gardening.
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.
Parents and carers learn techniques relating to the five key areas of the TRUST Programme, which includes support with behaviour management, nurture and self-regulation to improve connectedness. Sessions take place at the child’s school and parents learn how to let their children take control and responsibility for their actions and grow respect within the family.
Teachers, teaching assistants and support staff are also introduced to trauma-informed practise by investigating the effect of trauma and anxiety on the brain and the body, as well as strategies for creating safe spaces at school for all of their learners in the class setting. They learn how to manage behaviour effectively, and through a trauma-informed lens and how to set up activities whereby the children lead the learning and are responsible for their own safety and equipment.
New Leaf Learning founder Alex Preston said: “NHS England statistics show that 18% of children aged 7-16 years have a mental health disorder. It means that teachers are working in classrooms where one in five children may be unable to access education. The impact on the future working population is immense.
“We pride ourselves on being a unique resource and offering the opportunity for children to engage in a variety of activities in the beautiful outdoor setting of the Courteenhall Estate.
“Our programme puts the child at the centre, truly supports parents and carers, and ensures that schools use trauma-informed strategies to engage all children in their learning.
“We use nature-based learning because it is a powerful tool which can improve the children’s skills of resilience, effort, empathy, understanding, self-regulation and teamwork.”
The charity’s ambition is to offer the programme to more schools and is appealing for donations from local business and employers.
During its trials, the charity has been working with Courteenhall Estate and bringing small groups of local children onto the estate to promote re-engagement in learning. The Estate hosts and helps to pay for the programme, with activities including building dens in the woods, slack-lining and yoga.
Dr Johnny Wake, Managing Partner of Courteenhall Farms and also Chair of the Board of Trustees for New Leaf Learning, said: “I’m really proud to be part of this amazing charity having seen the real difference it makes to individual children in Northamptonshire.
“We piloted the programme over two years with Roade Primary School and children came to the Estate to incorporate the curriculum with learning outside.
“They did a wide range of activities including art in the Arboretum, had talks from members of the Courteenhall team about regenerative and sustainable farming and learnt about the Countryside Code in relation to our livestock.”
For more information or to make a donation, please visit New Leaf Learning's website.