Countryside Countryside

SEN Farm Visit: Appreciation letter from Headteacher at Brandles School

27 March 2023

After a Farm Discovery visit to their local farm in Hertfordshire, Brandles School’s headteacher, Paul Smith, sent us a letter of appreciation for their incredible experience!

Brandles School, part of Larwood Academy Trust (Hertfordshire), is a school for boys with social, emotional, and mental health issues and a wide range of SEN needs such as autism, ADHD, and oppositional defiance disorder.

“Our goal is to provide life-changing experiences for our students, and the two visits to Thrift Farm certainly did that.” – Headteacher


The letter we received from headteacher, Paul Smith following their Farm Discovery visit:


Brandle's School letter

“The staff at Thrift Farm were extremely welcoming and tolerant of the student's needs. They were very knowledgeable, and the students learnt a lot about sustainable food sources. It was great to see even the most challenging older students feeding sheep with hay, revealing their knowledge about ‘herbivores and molars’ and 100% engaged in bottle feeding and being a farm hand.

Many thanks to [Farmer] Francis for speaking to me on my first visit to gain an understanding of why our students are so disadvantaged, and to allow us to use the farm to change students' lives for the better. Many thanks also to Keiran [coordinator for the Country Trust], who with infectious enthusiasm really engaged our students, some of which don’t usually respond well to strangers. The communication and organisation from Keiran were brilliant.

We couldn’t stop talking about the visit when we got back, the boys went straight out at break to tell their friends about it.”



Nature & children with SEN and SEMH


Spending time in nature and having the opportunity to explore the connections between food, farming and the countryside provides a unique experience for children with SEN and mental, social, and emotional issues at school.

Nature benefits children with SEN in a number of ways, by encouraging children to overcome challenges and learn new skills, helping build their resilience and boosting their self-confidence (Muddy Faces). Here are two main ways in which nature helps:


1. Nature is restorative.

Research has shown us that being outdoors and feeling connected to nature is linked to mental health benefits, reduced stress levels and improved behaviour. (Mental Health Foundation).

“For the most part, the farm environment meant that none of the less desirable behaviours were observed.” - Headteacher


2. Nature is one big sensory extravaganza!

Sensory activities help to increase children’s concentration and focus. (Humber Sensory Processing Hub).

"Instead of the less desirable behaviours being observed, students were in awe of the visual, auditory and physical stimulus, alongside the machinery and of course the sheep.” - Headteacher

At the Country Trust, we believe every child should discover first-hand the connections between the food they eat, their own health and the health of the planet. We warmly welcome SEN and SEMH schools that are eligible for our programmes and provide fun, sensory experiences for all children!

Click here to see if your school is eligible for our programmes.

Children in sheep barn with farmer
A pupil gives a lamb some milk from a bottle
A pupil gives a lamb some milk from a bottle
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