Every Ruskin Mill Trust provision offers a core curriculum of land, craft, literacy and numeracy, arts and performing arts such as drama and music. Each college site has a signature craft activity, informed by the genius loci of the site, which helps students to connect to the heritage of the area.
The schools have a strong connection to the garden and the land, providing outdoor space for pupils to learn and grow. The curriculum at each site is supplemented by a wide variety of enrichment and therapy sessions in both daytime and residential setting, for up to 52 weeks per year.
Each student’s programme of study is crafted in order to meet that student’s specific educational needs. All activities support the student to work towards achieving his or her potential and future destination, whether that is work experience, independent living or further education.
Activities offered at each site are particular to the cultural and geographical history of the location of the provision.
The Trust colleges all have a signature craft. At Ruskin Mill College, the signature craft is textiles and weaving, carrying on the tradition of the woollen mills on the site and in the locality. At Glasshouse College, the signature craft is hot glass and glass engraving. The students work in the footsteps of the master craftsmen who worked the furnaces before them.
At Freeman College, the students engage in the signature craft of silver and copper spoon forging and cutlery manufacturing carrying on the traditions of the Sheffield cutlery industry.
Argent College has Jewellery making as its signature craft and students, like their peers at the nearby Birmingham City University – School of Jewellery, learn to make a range of rings, necklaces, and bracelets.
Coleg Plas Dwbl has a signature craft of greenwood work, building on the traditions of Welsh chair making.
These signature crafts form a backbone through the land and craft curriculum, and help shape the other college activities.
In the craft sessions, students develop the ability to focus their attention, co-ordinate their movement and co-operate with others through the craft. By creating craft objects of the highest quality under the guidance of experienced master craftspeople, they create a new sense of their own potential and self-worth. Using high quality natural materials, where possible, sourced from the site, students experience resistance and skill as they transform the materials into an item of purpose and in doing so, transform themselves.
There are three levels in engaging in the craft curriculum:
Step 1: to engage in making something for oneself
Step 2: to be able to make something for your extended community such as something to enhance the domestic environment; waste paper baskets, tablecloths, bowls, hooks to hang your coat on and a stool to sit on.
Step 3: to enter the items you have made into the retail market in one of the Trust’s increasing number of shops
These three steps can also be applied in horticultural activity, where students grow food that they can take home to contributing to harvesting produce for use in the canteens and cafes or sold through the shops.
By working on the land, students acquire a new relationship to nourishment and respect of nature. Through caring for the land, plants and animals they also learn to care for themselves and others, develop relationship and empathy. Ruskin Mill’s seed-to-table approach allows to participate in and understand the role that nature plays in human development, and health and wellbeing. In an increasing culture of instant gratification, the student learns that some things take time – and they work for the benefit of others and the community.
Students in drama, history of art, storytelling and music sessions experiment with and share their own creativity with others. They develop confidence and their ability to display the products of their imagination with their peers and community. Performing arts helps students to develop key communication skills, self-awareness, and collaboration.
Social enterprise and work experience
Many of the Trust’s sites include a social enterprise as part of the curriculum offer either a café, shop, heritage centre or veg box scheme. The social enterprise activities provide an opportunity for students to experience work, supported by the Trust’s staff teams, developing key vocational skills. In serving their communities, students receive validation that they are contributing to the world. From the moment of their entry into college, our pathways team are working with students to prepare and place them in work experience settings in line with their aspirations. Beginning in a supported internal environment, students can progress through social enterprises into external work placements and hence build up their skills, independence and confidence.
Living skills and Residential
Living skills are developed during the college day through literacy and numeracy courses catering, and specific living skills courses for day students. Residential students learn to create a home, look after themselves and share with others. Whether in a team home, with a shared lives provider or in an independent flat, students cultivate the skills necessary to progress towards living more independently.
Literacy and Numeracy
Literacy and numeracy is embedded into all the activities, as well as offered in individual sessions. Students use geometry to create their three legged stool, practice measuring, addition/ subtraction when working on the land, sequencing and ratios when cooking. They read recipes, instructions, texts, and write journals, and articles for the newsletters and Trust publications. Students also receive expert support from literacy and numeracy tutors who work wit them to overcome any areas of difficulty.
Therapies, health and wellbeing
The Trust provisions offer a range of therapies including speech and language, massage, movement, art therapy and where needed occupational therapy. The Trust has a strong culture of food and nutrition and students are supported to make healthy eating and lifestyle choices. The activities, on the land and in the craft sessions, require a level of physical stamina and coordination, and the natural environment supports physical and mental wellbeing.