This week the VVU visited Silver Birch Therapy Farm and Riding School who are one of the organisations the Southend Enrichment Programme work with through VVU funding to support students attending alternative educational provision in Southend.
The Southend Enrichment Programme is organised and run by the sport and leisure team at Southend-on-Sea City Council, who identify organisations who can provide diversionary programmes for identified individuals in Southend.
The enrichment programme supports and empowers pupils, staff and teachers to identify how they can work better together to manage pupils challenging behaviour, using a variety of targeted activities.
At Silver Birch students participate in a weekly one-hour session for four weeks to learn animal care and embrace the empowering experience and skill of horse riding. Despite the challenges some of the young people face, these sessions have become an anchor for their personal growth and development, allowing them to gain new skills and have a sense of belonging.
The VVU observed a session, and you could see the students enthusiasm and interest, each one leaving the session with huge smiles on their faces. Two of the participants told us how much they would like to pursue horse riding as a hobby and continue volunteering at the riding school. They spoke very highly of their experience at the therapy farm and were keen to tell us about the new additions to the farm in the form of five new calves who arrived last week.
The genuine appreciation for the program reflects why interventions like this for young people are so important. It highlights the transformative power of nurturing a sense of purpose and instilling confidence into young people.
The Southend Enrichment Programme supported 138 individuals in the first quarter of 2023/24, finding unique programmes of activity for those needing targeted, bespoke support. As well as the personal growth for the young people, their attendance and engagement with education has improved.