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Our Education Team has had another exciting, record-breaking year with numbers rising by almost a fifth – we have welcomed more than 29,000 visitors to our estates in the past academic year.

Every estate visit is linked to the National Curriculum, but for a small minority of children the usual curriculum is not suitable. These children benefit enormously from learning outdoors, but they need specially-planned lessons, often in small groups or even one-to-one. This is something we provide as part of our programme, and it comes in a variety of formats.

For example, we welcome small groups of children from Pupil Referral Units – children who have been excluded from mainstream school – offering them a learning environment which is difficult to create in the classroom. Given space, fresh air and natural resources, children can be transported to different places and times, making their understanding of other cultures, peoples and countries more exciting, memorable and relevant.

At Fairford every week we work with a group of Year 10s following the ‘LEAP’ programme, aimed at disengaged learners. Many of these sessions take place in outside workshop areas, with our Education Officer helping students learn about horticulture, mechanical and engineering skills and natural artwork.

We also work with groups of ‘gifted and talented’ youngsters – for example, welcoming  mixed groups from clusters of schools who come here to extend their maths studies.

It’s a privilege to give children of any age, ability or background the chance to enhance, enrich and extend their learning outdoors. But there is something uniquely rewarding in working with a youngster with a particular educational need, and helping them a little further towards fulfilling their potential.

We see so many examples of this, from the A-level pupil working here on a life-size sculpture of a lion (impossible in an ordinary art class), to the eight-year-old autistic child who spent almost the whole session lying down looking into the blue expanse above, who learned, understood and remembered two new words – ‘sky’ and ‘happy’.

Staff changes

We’re delighted to welcome Umbareen Daniels as a permanent member of the team. Umbareen joined us initially on a temporary contract in the summer and became a permanent staff member this term, working mainly on the Slimbridge Estate in Gloucestershire.

And Dorothy Howes who has been covering Lydia Etherington’s maternity leave on the Trust’s Hartwell Estate in Buckinghamshire, has now replaced Lydia following her decision not to return to work after the birth of her daughter Felicity.