We thought we would share with you one of our most recent projects, of which we are immensely proud and which holds a special place in our hearts. Based in the beautiful Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, very close to where some of the team live, is a very special school.
The Heart of the Forest School caters for children from as young as three up to the age of nineteen, who are all living with severe or profound learning difficulties, often with complex medical conditions and additional physical disabilities. The head teacher, Melissa Bradshaw, and dedicated team of staff, follow an educational plan focused on offering their students a good social life, while enabling them to be as independent as possible and to lead fulfilled lives both now and into adulthood.
The next part of the story involves an amazing charity called Wooden Spoon which aims to harness the power of rugby to positively transform the lives of disadvantaged and disabled children and young people throughout the UK and Ireland. Since its conception in 1982, the charity has committed over £23 million to 650 projects, benefitting more than 1 million young lives. And a while ago, the fundraisers of Gloucestershire approached the Heart of the Forest School to see if they could do with a bit of help in getting their students more fully engaged with sporting activity. Of course, the school said yes please.
It is a fundamental belief of Wooden Spoon that no child, regardless of their ability or advantage, should miss out on the benefits to health and well-being offered by participation in sporting activity. In addition, they strongly value the power of play in learning new skills and the importance of stimulating children’s senses, engaging and exciting their minds. Those of you who know a little about TG Escapes will recognise the similarities between the ethos of the folk at Wooden Spoon and our own passionate belief in the power of getting children outside, being both active and actively engaged with nature. We were thrilled to be invited to become involved in the project.
The Heart of the Forest School is situated in a stunning setting and blessed with some beautiful school grounds, although parts of the outside space were located too far from the main school buildings to be used by students with significant special needs. The plan hatched between the school, Wooden Spoon and TG Escapes was to unlock the potential of the underutilised space outside.
Initially having been expecting a glorified summer house, Ms. Bradshaw was delighted to discover that the funds being offered by Wooden Spoon were sufficient to build a fantastic outdoor classroom which blends beautifully with the natural, wooded setting. The building is fully equipped with toilet, changing and hoisting facilities together with kitchen fittings that allow staff to provide food and drink for the students, without having to return to the main building.
As a result of their new Learning Escape, all students will now have the opportunity to get outside and enjoy participating in activities such as sports day and Duke of Edinburgh pursuits. The head teacher and staff are very excited to explore ways in which their new classroom can be used to expand the curriculum and become more involved with the local community. We are excited for them and wish them all the very best in their outdoor experiences.
Take a look at this video from opening day featuring Gloucester and England rugby star Jonny May and find out about our other projects here.