|Chris Tait and Leigh Thompson
A Thrive programme to help young people with special educational needs (SEN) in Saltwell Park, Gateshead has been given a grant of £5,000 from global company Sage.
The Grow and Learn programme in Gateshead is a practical training programme which uses gardening to support young people (aged 14-19) with SEN and complex needs.
It helps them develop personal and life skills, improve their work skills and in-work etiquette and allows them to study a City & Guilds qualification in horticulture (Level 1 Practical Horticulture skills.
Sage, the market leader for integrated accounting, payroll and payments systems, allows its colleagues to take up to five days volunteering a year through its corporate philanthropy programme, Sage Foundation, and this summer more than 40 volunteered with Thrive in Saltwell Park. Impressed by the quality of the project, Sage Foundation wanted to do more to help the charity.
Sage Foundation aims to transform lives by creating sustainable, social, economic and entrepreneurial opportunities for local communities - helping more people reach their fullest potential.
, UK Programme Manager at Sage Foundation, said: "We understand the tremendous pressures that charities deal with in managing operations, often with limited resources. At Sage Foundation we’re focused on supporting partners, just like Thrive, with grants, innovative product donations and our brilliant volunteers, to make their lives easier, so they can concentrate efforts where they’re needed most."
Horticultural therapists from Thrive work with students once a week encouraging them to develop practical gardening skills and learn about healthy living and lifestyles. The Grow and Learn programme helps them develop confidence and self-esteem and the charity’s approach is tailored to enable students to progress at their own speed.
Students are encouraged to be part of the decision-making process about running the project. Initially this is with support from Thrive, but as they become more confident, they take more independent decision-making responsibility.
Thrive’s horticultural therapists work with students and their support team to establish individual needs and aspirations, then create Individual Development Programmes (IDPs) to ensure outcomes are achieved.
Individual support needs and IDP goals are embedded into activities to help students work towards personal and work related goals. These IDPs support and complement school/college based Learning Plans and several teachers have reported an increase in their student’s participation in other activities as their confidence grows and they share successes with their classmates.
, Thrive regional manager in Gateshead, said: "Students on Grow and Learn face real disadvantage. They are young people with high support needs who still have aspirations.
"In the transition to adult life, children with a learning disability and complex needs are disadvantaged; they are often socially excluded and can live with a sense of failure and under-achievement.
"Alienation from their peers results in higher truancy rates, which exacerbate poor academic achievement. Grow and Learn is designed to fill a gap to help these young people by offering informal learning in an out-of-school environment.
"It aims to improve their life chances and place them in a stronger position to discover new skills and talents, which will move them on.
"Without support these young people can feel their choices are limited. We are helping to prepare them to take the next step, whether that is into further training, volunteering, or employment."