A group of young people from Kent want to highlight the benefits of Outdoor Learning as a positive alternative to mainstream schooling.
Oliver Gilbert is one of the students at Woodpecker Court, a Social Enterprise merging academic tuition with practical training through outdoor activities such as bush-craft and woodwork.
The 20-year-old, from Dover, says the programme has been more beneficial for him than a conventional classroom.
‘I’ve been at Woodpecker Court for about a year now, and for me it’s a better alternative to school because it’s all the stuff that works for me,’ he explained.
‘I didn’t cope well at mainstream school because of the large groups and the noise, but I love all things outdoors and they mix that with the educational stuff, and that’s why it’s the right place for me.’
Now, Oliver and others at the centre have created a video with Fixers to let young people know traditional schools are not the only option available.
‘I was referred to Woodpecker Court by a teacher at my old school,’ says Oliver, who left school in 2014 with no GCSE's. ‘Here I study Maths and English, as well as employability skills that will help me with interviews and writing CV’s.'
Before arriving at Woodpecker Court, Ollie had completed a Supported Internship Level One Certificate in Employability skills at Kent College, and worked in horticultural jobs for Dover Town Council and White Cliffs Countryside Partnership.
The centre’s more practical approach includes training in woodwork, gardening and animal care, and allows the pupils to be entrepreneurial by selling their creations through an honesty stall.
Managing Director Dominic Meehan explains the thinking behind their unique programme.
‘Woodpecker Court was based off of a theory I had that if you took people that struggled in mainstream education out of that context, away from negative peer influences into a neutral environment with no expectations, they would have a better chance of success,' he explained.
'If you aren’t an audio or a visual learner, sitting in a magnolia classroom five hours a day will mean nothing to you. But the outdoor applications can provide context. For example, we will link the maths to the provision of the bird feed or something relevant, and that context will help bring it to life.
‘What we are doing is completely unique; there are no available comparisons, so it’s important to pay attention and acknowledge the positive outcomes.’
Oliver's project was supported by the Kent Community Foundation.
To find other resources on this topic, and watch Fixers films, click on the image below.