Plans for school to help traumatised children with animal therapy

Outdoor play and aminal therapy, including caring for horses, will be central to the new school's support for traumatised children. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Outdoor play and aminal therapy, including caring for horses, will be central to the new school's support for traumatised children. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto
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A Scottish charity has applied or permission to set up a pioneering education centre which will include animal therapy with horses, “risky play” and outdoor activities for young children who have experienced major trauma in their early years.

Kibble Group, which extensively researched ground-breaking methods of care worldwide over the past three years, has submitted planning permission for the establishment in Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire.

For a lot of the kids we work with, the traditional educational environment has been unsuccessful. Instead we are using the trauma-informed therapeutic model

Audrey Baird

The charity’s director, Audrey Baird, said the ­therapeutic approach to ­education will allow up to 30 primary children aged between five and 12 to enjoy of outdoor learning alongside National Curriculum-based classroom teaching, before going on to long-term foster care.

She said: “For a lot of the kids we work with, the traditional educational environment has been unsuccessful. Instead we are using the trauma-informed therapeutic model.

“This includes ‘risky play’ which allows children to do things like build their own outdoor shelters using outdoor resources and climb trees, while at the same time teaching them risk assessment. This means they are learning skills to take into adolescence.

“Our studies show this type of activity better prepares the brain for learning.

“We will also have horses and other animals such as goats and chickens on campus.

“The children will be caring for the horses and getting an understanding that while they themselves are working to overcome challenges, the horses might well have had difficult times too.”

Jim Gillespie, chief executive of Kibble Group, said the new approach could improve children’s life chances.

He said: “Kibble believes the right care and education has the potential to transform the lives of young people, no ­matter their background or circumstances.

“The site of this former care home is the ideal, idyllic setting for this type of campus and we’re due to begin speaking with local community organisations about how we can work collaboratively.”

Mr Gillespie added: “We have begun the process of applying for planning permission to renovate the two buildings, converting them into modern classrooms and residential accommodation.

“This will allow us to change the use from a retirement home to a state-of-the-art educational facility delivering tailored support for children.”

Based in Paisley and founded in 1859, Kibble Group bought the former residential care homes Parkhill House and Garpel House are submitting change of use plans to Renfrewshire Council. The new centre is due to open next year.

It also provides education and care from centres in Largs, Paisley and Garnock Valley.