ACTION for Children’s Headlands School is taking delivery of two pygmy goats during Mental Health Awareness Week (May 10 to 16) to boost its collection of animals aiding students’ education and mental wellbeing.
With nature as the theme for this year’s awareness week, the day and residential special school in Penarth, Wales has embedded animal husbandry and outdoor vocational work into its philosophy and curriculum.
Over the past 18 months, the school has acquired alpacas, chickens, ducks and a companion dog with students actively involved in all aspects of their care – from feeding the animals to building and maintaining their living areas.
The animals have proved very popular with students, with the grounds being constantly improved to provide a safe and comfortable space for interaction.
Student Joseph Owen, 16, is taking vocational subjects involving animal and grounds maintenance.
He said: “I love working outdoors. I come here every day and when I arrive, I see how the alpacas are doing before I go to lessons.
“I walk them round the grounds which is really enjoyable. I also have outdoor-based lessons which I love doing.
“I do get quite down so it helps me going outside to the animal area as I like the sun, being in the grassed area and hearing the birds, it really calms me down.”
Headlands headteacher, Matt Burns, said: “For our teachers, the ‘classroom’ can be any place where students are engaged in meaningful learning experiences and this outdoor project has proved that when students find activities interesting, relevant and aligned to their needs, their wellbeing will always benefit.”
The teacher overseeing the animal and outdoor project, David Gillingham, added: “Students have reacted really well to the programme and the radically different learning environment.
“They have been involved at all stages of the project and, as a result, have learned so many skills and shown such commitment because it is connected to something real and tangible.
“Learning in this way has not only helped them to develop new skills but has really enhanced their confidence to build positive relationships and wellbeing as learners.”