Our curriculum and method

Practical Skills Therapeutic Education

Download the Sensory Audit, an external audit of three crafts on the Ruskin Mill Trust curriculum carried out by Children’s Sensory Therapy Ltd.

Download Practically Minded (2019) The Benefits and Mechanisms Associated with a Practical Skills-Based Curriculum by Dr. Aric Sigman

All students are taught and cared for through our research-based method, Practical Skills Therapeutic Education (PSTE). Practically applied principles, known as the Seven Fields of Practice, underpin PSTE and guide each student’s journey.  These are: genius loci (spirit of place), practical skills, biodynamic ecology, therapeutic education, holistic support and care, holistic medicine and transformative leadership and management.

Practical Skills Therapeutic Education and the underpinning Seven Fields of Practice have been developed by Aonghus Gordon, drawing from the inspirations of Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925),  John Ruskin (1819 – 1900), and William Morris (1834 – 1896).

Through PSTE, we aim to help each student develop their own capacity for self-generated conscious action. Each student is provided with an individualised and tailored curriculum such that the practical skills they will engage with are those specifically chosen to meet their own developmental needs. A curriculum based on PSTE will be designed to enhance a student’s gross and fine motor skills, balance coordination, social skills development and also improve their academic skills in literacy and numeracy. Progress is measured using RMT’s Three Stage Process which focusses on progression towards independence: (1) overcoming barriers to learning, (2) becoming skilled and (3) contributing to community; achieved by careful engagement through guided choice, in which the student’s voice co-shapes the curriculum experience towards self-validation and contributing to community.

Studying at an RMT provision provides students with holistic learning through the role modelling positive relationships in the fields of arts, crafts, commerce, agriculture, nutrition, living skills and the environment. By immersing students within the productive aspect of our curriculum, students learn to care for their own well-being and development and overcome their barriers to learning. Practical Skills Therapeutic Education uses the simple but profound model of hand, head, heart and place, to explore the benefits to an individual’s development.

By providing students with the tools to transform material, they transform themselves. This is so students learn to recognise their capabilities and positively contribute to society, which is continuously celebrated through cultural events and arts festivals for staff, students and the wider community. We also provide opportunities to relate the curriculum to the wider world and work experience through social enterprise.

PSTE also extends into the residential 24-hour curriculum through holistic care and support, contributing to and improving general wellbeing and health. For example, students will produce craft and food items for their residential home, providing them with an opportunity to see their work appreciated in their home setting. Day students are also given opportunities to build up their home living skills. All students benefit from our seed-to-table practice including healthy eating and social development.

Blacksmithing lesson at Clervaux Trust

Seven Fields of Practice

Ruskin Mill Trust’s ‘Practical Skills Therapeutic Education’ works with Seven Fields of Practice to provide students with a truly holistic and integrative educational experience.  Whilst being distinct, the Fields of Practice form an educational continuum that assists in the structuring of the student journey.  The Seven Fields of Practice are subject to research up to the Master’s and PhD level and inform the staff training across the Trust.

Field 1 Genius Loci / Spirit of Place – Genius Loci recognises the heritage and uniqueness of locality. In each educational provision, we work holistically with the landscape, its geology, flora and fauna, and history of human activity, to develop specialist curriculum activities.

Field 2 Practical Skills – The field of Practical Skills, founded on craft and land-based activities, is designed to support students’ cognitive, emotional and physical development, and embed functional skills. Through sourcing material from the locality, forming it with their own hands and making an item of service for others, the students reconnect to the earth, themselves and their community.

Field 3 Biodynamic Ecology – Biodynamic Ecology recognises that each farm and garden is an integrated dynamic organism that responds to wider, more subtle, cosmic influences. Students follow a seed-to-table curriculum to celebrate nature’s rhythms, and are encouraged to eat healthily.

Field 4 Therapeutic Education – The journey of the students at Ruskin Mill Trust places an emphasis on facilitating wholeness where there is fragmentation, and movement where there is stagnation. This transformative approach to education is underpinned by the concept of phasic human development and applied sensory integration. By engaging with age-appropriate activities, students re-step missed developmental opportunities.

Field 5 Holistic Support and Care – The field of Holistic Support and Care stands behind the twenty-four hour educational curriculum and, in particular, the life of students in their residential provision. It is here that students actively engage in homemaking and mastering basic living skills. These learning experiences provide support for the development of healthy life processes.

Field 6 Holistic Medicine – Ruskin Mill Trust offers a range of holistic therapies to support students’ health and wellbeing in accordance with the whole human being approach. The field of Holistic Medicine is promoted through collaboration between a multi-disciplinary team of practitioners, support staff, doctors and nurses. At the heart of this field of practice is the student study.

Field 7 Transformative Leadership – Ruskin Mill Trust acknowledges and appreciates multiple intelligences, such as emotional and aesthetic intelligence, and situational awareness. To progress the student journey towards self-generated conscious action, staff are required to consciously role model positive relationships with other human beings as well as their environment.

The Seven Fields of Practice contribute to Ruskin Mill Trust’s vision that each individual has the potential to shape their own future through experiencing meaningful relationships with universe, earth and people.

Green wood working lesson

Education

Schools

Ruskin Mill Trust schools deliver a Steiner based curriculum that incorporates the curriculum areas listed in the Independent School Standards (in force from 2014).

In accordance with this, Ruskin Mill Trust undertakes to provide a curriculum that meets the needs of each student based on the student’s Education, Health and Care Plan as well as their needs and interests. All students receive full time, supervised education that offers a range of linguistic, mathematical, scientific, technological, human, social, physical, aesthetic and creative aspects appropriate to their age, aptitude and stage of development. All students receive Personal Social and Health Education and those of secondary school age receive impartial careers advice and guidance. The overriding aim of the curriculum is to prepare our young people for life in modern Britain, by achieving the best possible outcomes for students in terms of individual learning, independence, personal growth and development. For more information on our Curriculum Policy, please click here.

The curriculum for Ruskin Mill Trust schools is informed by Practical Skills Therapeutic Education, and children and young adults are encouraged to learn through practical activity. Literacy and numeracy is embedded into the practical activities and then further addressed in small groups when appropriate. Science is delivered using practical applications, and ideally in the natural environment or using natural materials.  

Students can access a range of qualifications appropriate to their needs and interest through the Open College Network (OCN). Schools offering a 6th Form option also provide students with opportunities to achieve GCSE’s and A Levels.

Colleges

Ruskin Mill Trust Colleges use Practical Skills Therapeutic Education as their method. Students follow individual programmes that are a combination of land, craft, arts, living skills, social enterprise and therapies, depending on need and interest and the outcomes identified in their Education, Health and Care Plans. Students are encouraged to engage in a range of activities to help them identify what they enjoy and where they have strong skills.

Through the practical activities, studentS learn essential life skills including social and communication skills, vocational skills, including focus, following instructions and working independently, personal skills, including developing strategies to manage emotions and behaviour, self awareness and self management, and executive functioning skills such as understanding cause and effect and sequence. The practical skills curriculum also provides opportunities for students to learn about the natural world around them, the qualities of the materials they use, the history of the processes they follow, and the cultural connections.

This learning about the wider world and their relationship to the world around them cumulates in the students making and item of service, using traditional methods, that they then use or gift to someone. The aim of the colleges educational programme is to help students become more independent and active in their communities, and to understand their relationship to others and their world.

Students can gain a variety of vocational qualifications depending on need and interest. Ruskin Mill Trust works closely with the Open College Network to develop and provide appropriate qualifications that are accessible to a range of abilities.

Gateway

Gateway is available at all Ruskin Mill Trust College sites. Gateway is an education programme for any young people and adults who do not require full time education, but do still require some educational elements to support their vocational and independent skills development. The Gateway programme offers individualised plans that can include educational training/ courses, vocational skill development and independent living skills development. The programme is designed around individuals’ needs and interests, and is available to young people and adults who still have an Education, Health and Care Plan.

Participants on the Gateway programme will have a different rhythm to their day than if they were in full time education. There will be a rhythm of work and training, where they will be supported to develop key employment skills such as timekeeping, presentation, and responsibility. They will train in one of the site’s social enterprises or farms and work alongside a dedicated Gateway team member who will ensure that students are empowered and enabled to reach their potential.

Gateway is available as a day and residential provision at all the Trust college sites. Participants will live in houses in the community and be supported to fully engage in the running of the household, meal planning, budgeting, shopping, cleaning and organising social activities. Participants will be supported to ensure that they are ready for their day on the programme, mirroring a work environment and may be asked to prepare a lunch to take in, or dress appropriately for a task.

For those individuals who are able to explore work opportunities, the centres will offer opportunities to work at on-site businesses such as cafés, bakeries and shops, or with one of the community business partners. If appropriate, participants can undertake a relevant vocational training to support their employment.

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