What is Alternative Provision?
AP is education that is provided outside the school of which a child is registered for a short period of time or based at BCA. It includes the more traditional pupil referral unit (or PRU), or in this case, a working care farm based at Birchen Coppice Priamry Academy that specialises in animal assisted therapy (AAT). By spending a period of time at the farm, in close contact with the animals as part of a carefully planned programme of educational activities, the aim is that at the end of the intervention programme, the child can be re-integrated back into his or her mainstream school with improved behaviour and enhanced self-esteem, confidence, motivation and self-worth.
What is Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)?
AAT involves a specialist trained therapist – in this case our farm manager – working together with a child and an animal to deliver a bespoke programme of therapy to meet the needs of the child and to change their behaviours. We use a range of nurture facilities incorporating our domestic animals as part of the AAT and blend this expertly with the more traditional classroom activities typically included as part of the curriculum, such as digital technology (iPads), mathematics and English.
For some pupils, the classroom environment can be stressful and not helpful when meeting a child’s needs. At Woodbury Care Farm pupils are given the unique opportunity to be outdoors, working closely with animals taking part in a range of activities, either one-to-one or in small groups. These activities include grooming, feeding, handling and observing as well as groundwork and a range of other tasks specific to looking after the animals and farm in general.
Research shows that AAT makes a huge difference to young people’s lives and is a very powerful tool to promote teamwork, empathy, confidence-building and self-worth. Above all, it helps children to see beyond themselves and to have the confidence to learn to change their behaviours.
How does AAT make a difference?
There are a number of social, emotional, physical, cognitive and behavioural benefits of AAT as part of an integrated and holistic approach to meeting the needs of the child.
These might include:
Who are our animals?
All of our farm animals are carefully selected. In most cases they are rescue animals, or animals themselves that have previously been involved with AAT at a different setting. They are all ‘clicker’ trained so that they respond instantly to commands from staff. We understand that the health and safety of all our animals is of paramount importance which is why they are all registered, trained and safe to work with. Risk assessments are therefore in place for all our animals and activities.
We have a range of animals to support our therapy work. These include:
Our donkeys, Kate and Mazie
Our Shetland ponies, Thomas and Hardy
Our goats, Joey and Jupiter
Our hens, Mofit, Matilda and Molly
Our rabbits, Benjamin Gravy, Fluffy and Thumper
Our leg-barn chickens, Elsa and Ana
Our guinea pigs, Albert and Elvis and
Our pot-bellied pigs, George and Mildred, last but not least
Our Sheep, Boo and Nala
If you would like to visit our farm or request further information, please contact:
Director of Families and Communities and Executive Headteacher
Victoria Academies Trust