The Thrive Approach ® is already achieving extraordinary results at an equine therapy centre in Kent where it was introduced earlier this year.
Chalkhill Farm is an Education Other Than at School (EOTAS) provider, which runs equine therapy, cooking, art and horticultural activities for children who are not in mainstream education. Independent Thrive trainer Amanda Thompson has been using the Approach at the setting, near Canterbury, since March, and has seen the young people she works with, many of whom have the highest levels of need, begin to understand and regulate their own feelings, often for the first time in their lives. By using Thrive-Online ® to track and measure children’s progress, their parents and the professionals involved in their care are able to see how they are developing as a result of their time at the farm. Parents, social workers and the young people themselves have given positive feedback on the progress they have made. “You can see the difference Thrive has made. It’s been very well received and supported and everyone can see how well the young people are doing,” added Amanda (pictured below).
Chalkhill Farm has been running for 13 years, many of which have been on a voluntary basis by the owner and manager, Julie Hardy. Thrive is used on a daily basis at the farm along with gentle, healing activities as a way of helping children to learn about the emotions they are feeling and to begin to self-regulate. Each activity varies upon the needs of the young person and the aim is to build up their life skills, work skills and self-confidence. Young people also have the opportunity to progress to studying for an AQA Certificate in the these subject areas as well as a BTEC Level 1 in equine care, woodwork and cooking.
The idea of combining Thrive with tuition and therapeutic activities at Chalkhill Farm came about after Amanda was introduced to Julie Hardy by a mutual friend, and was immediately impressed by the activities offered there and how complementary they were to the Approach. Amanda then got in touch with another contact, Ruth Minhall, the founder of Tuition Extra, a Kent-based tutoring service that provides bespoke education programmes and the three used their respective skills and experience to devise an operational model for the farm. This sees young people aged 7 to 18 accessing placements and activities, underpinned with Thrive sessions, to help them build confidence and develop self-management strategies. Activities are tailored to each individual and there is an emphasis on building resilience to help participants to re-engage with learning and life.
After registering Chalkhill Farm as an EOTAS provider, Amanda was able to secure funding to develop it from the Oak Foundation, a globally-active philanthropic organisation.
Children and young people come to the farm for a placement, usually over a period of weeks or months, with teaching being arranged by Tuition Extra so that their emotional and social progress can lead on to educational outcomes, if they wish. This arrangement, of bringing together different, but complementary, approaches to meet the needs of young people not in mainstream education has been having very positive results, especially with young people with a high level of need.
“A huge amount of vulnerable people are slipping through the net in our society at the moment, especially those with emotional and behavioural difficulties. A lot of mainstream schools don’t know how to link trauma and attachment using the right language so what we’re offering here is something that is badly needed – and it’s working,” said Amanda.
“We had one girl who had not been able to access secondary education at all and even at primary school, she had been struggling. When she came here, we used cooking as a way to reach her and engage her in something she was interested in. By talking about food with us, she began having conversations with no anxiety and no pressure. She started to talk to other people, she started to laugh and to have an opinion, which she’s never done before. Everyone that knows her has been struck by the transformation in her. That is the sort of transformation we are seeing here all the time and Thrive is underpinning it all.”