The ReConnect Programme was introduced at the Farm in 2000 with funding via a Government initiative called the Neighbourhood Support Fund (NSF). The grant enabled the Farm to develop a practical themed programme aimed at young people aged between 13-16 years who were disengaged from education and at risk of long-term social exclusion.
From 2008, Leeds City Council continued to fund this programme that introduces young people referred by high schools to the environment through a variety of outdoor, practical conservation activities that have a ‘hands on emphasis’ and develop teamwork and co-operation. Different projects run each week that develop skills, confidence and build self-esteem, with the objective of reconnecting the pupils to mainstream education.
The programme is approved by Education Leeds and delivered by experienced staff in a small group setting one day a week per term/ or for the full school year. Pupils develop a portfolio of their work for National Open College Network (NOCN) accreditation and Units include Introduction to Teamwork Skills, Understanding a Work Experience Placement, Developing an Awareness of Soil Types & Garden Habitats, delivered at Entry 3 Level. This evidence can also be cross-referenced to qualifications such as ASDAN.
Over the last year, 48 pupils were referred to the programme, of those who were 14+, 90% achieved NOCN accreditation, achieving between 3 and 15 credits at Entry 3 Level.
The project has been running for over 10 years and has a proven record of success. It is part of the wider Engage network- 12 locally based voluntary and community organisations in Leeds who deliver targeted work for young people, with particular emphasis on supporting ‘hard to reach’ young people.
- Wild Food – Young people harvest crops from their own allotment and gather wild foods, which they then cook on a camp fire encouraging team bonding and healthy eating
- Recycled Mountain Bike Project – Young people are taught how to repair mountain bikes, they build one for themselves and others that are sent to countries such as Romania and Ukraine. Young people build cycling skills, undertaking a mountain bike skills and Bikeability Level 2 test and, at the end of the programme, take their free bike home. Whilst carrying out these tasks, they develop confidence, road sense and safety, self-motivation and engage in physical activity.
- Woodland Management – Tree felling and planting, building wildlife boxes and other habitat improvements builds self-esteem, pride, teamwork, communication and an appreciation of environmental issues.
- Allotment – Young people plant and grow organic fruit and vegetables of their choice that helps them develop their decision-making skills and healthy eating habits.
- Farm Animals – Young people have the opportunity to collect eggs, feed and maintain the livestock and develop confidence, teamwork skills, responsibility and motivation along the way.
- Improved behaviour in and out of the classroom
- Improved attendance, on programme and in school
- Achievement of a nationally recognised qualification