“The development of the rural skills department on the school site enables pupils to develop skills in small animal husbandry, including how sheep and chickens grow, develop and are used in farming. These and the other animals, along with the roundhouse and allotment, are used extremely well by staff to engage pupils in real-life learning activities and to calm pupils when they get distressed.” – OFSTED, 2016
Rural Skills aims to provide an alternative and holistic means of engaging students in learning outside the traditional classroom setting:
- to engage students in meaningful sessions outside of the traditional classroom setting through a wide range of practical activities including woodcraft, ceramics, outdoor cooking, story-telling, horticulture, bushcraft, etc.
- to increase experience, enrichment and opportunities for the learning and development of skills.
Since its launch in September 2011, the Rural Skills Department has grown in size and diversity. At Ellen Tinkham School, we have a timber framed roundhouse shelter which is used as an outdoor classroom, complete with cob oven and fire-pit. Pupils also access our green woodworking shop complete with pole-lathe, a potters kick-wheel, and wool spinning and weaving equipment.
At Wayside Crescent, students spend time in our purpose built indoor workshop focusing on electric and mechanical studies as part of their Enterprise and BTEC Construction work.
At both sites, outdoor facilities include allotments with raised beds and poly-tunnels where students cultivate seasonal fruit and vegetables to sell and consume. We also keep a number of chickens and small animals which are located within wildlife friendly areas on our grounds.
Students are referred to the project leader on a case by case basis and timetables are then tailored by class teachers and Rural Skills staff to meet individual needs.
Many of our students find traditional classroom environments particularly challenging. By tapping into the wealth of opportunities that can be found in nature, we offer young people the chance to benefit from a far greater breadth of learning experience and enrichment.
Interacting with and caring for animals, growing flowers and vegetables, and working with their hands on innumerable different projects means that we can anticipate a wide variety of outcomes such as:
- Engagement with the outside world.
- Showing an interest in the world in which they live.
- Learning about the needs of living things.
- Understanding that the owner has a responsibility to meet the needs of domesticated animals so they remain healthy and happy.
- Showing care and concern for living things and the environment.
- Links with the science curriculum (esp. biology).