Little Gate Farm Young Rangers Provision Evaluation Highlights
Little Gate Farm Young Rangers (LGYR) provide holiday and weekend day respite for young people with additional needs or learning disabilities age 8-19 years. They offer places to pupils from both mainstream and special school settings. Referrals come directly from parents via word of mouth or social media and from schools or social workers. Parents and children are encouraged to visit first and then fill out an application. Parents are interviewed further if necessary and sometimes schools are contacted if additional information is required.
Staff ratio is 3:1, with 1:1 support being available if required.
The day runs from 10-3. Transport is offered with pick ups from central points in the locality and in addition pick ups from home can be offered in special circumstance.
This evaluation compromises of the information gathered from a day’s visit in the form of activity observations, staff interviews (with Young Rangers activity leader, support staff, bookings manager, Little Gate director and Little Gate CEO), parent discussions, young ranger interviews, policy review, information gained from website/ social media page and feedback from parent evaluation forms.
LGYR provides excellent respite provision for the young people for whom it caters. Its biggest draw is the unique setting it provides enabling young people to have fun and build their confidence in a safe, outdoor environment. Staff cite that so often opportunities for young people with additional needs are decreased because of anxieties around the challenges and risks they may pose. At LGYR they endeavour to provide all young people with the chance to get back to nature to explore, play and have fun, and allow “children to be children.”
One of the biggest assets of LGYR is the staff. Their own sense of culture and purpose is extremely strong, and they are joyous in their work and are driven to provide these young people with happy, fun and fulfilling experiences and try to make a difference in their lives. They are exceptionally skilled in supporting the young people they work with and young people feel respected and understood.
The young rangers themselves feel part of a community and identify themselves as a Young Ranger as opposed to just ‘attending’ a respite provision. The culture and climate staff create is that of acceptance and support, with no peer pressure and no external distractions enabling young people to get back to nature, feel at ease and secure to give things a try and therefore grow in self-confidence. Staff feel the provision is unique as it strips away all draws of technology and removes any element of frustration or peer pressure enabling young people to be themselves, learn about their own strengths and feel successful.
The respite offered is of excellent value for money as it offers a place where young people can not only attend a day service but be part of a unique group in a highly motivating and engaging setting, where they have a plethora of learning opportunities to problem solve, develop friendships, become a valued member of the community and grow in self esteem. All of the young rangers when spoken to commented they had at least 1 friend at little gate and said they loved coming!
Evaluation of Provision
Quality of Activities
LGYR clearly gain greatly from being in the outdoor environment Little Gate provides. They demonstrate high levels of motivation and engagement in the outdoors and are calm and relaxed enjoying being with the animals and spending time exploring around the farm. Staff consider the feelings of the young rangers and question them at the start and end of the day, with the majority feeling at least the same and usually better at the end of the day than they felt at the start. Parents comment that their children feel happy and are becoming keen to share news about their day.
During the day I observed a range of activities including, feeding the animals, designing houses for guinea pigs, creating bird feeders, feather painting, woodland walks, campfire and den building.
Rangers are encouraged to try all activities however staff understand that activities are not ‘compulsory’ and there has to be a variety and flexibility to meet the needs of such a diverse group. Leaders encourage the young people to take the lead in their activities and make the choice about how and what they participate in, and a ‘slower pace’ allows rangers time to explore and learn how to self-occupy.
LGYR thrived and were most productive when exploring the outdoor environment. The best opportunities came when Rangers were encouraged to try to climb the gates and think about how they could problem solve and work together when building. The young people came to life and showed outstanding purpose and concentration when doing an activity as simple as collecting wood for the fire. All the young people when asked commented on various woodland or animal related activities as their favourite. When asked if there was anything else they would like to do, the Young Rangers commented they would like to ‘spend a whole day in the woods’ and ‘cook on the fire’. Staff were also highly motivated to encourage greater use of the woodlands in different ways and were keen to explore further what forest school provisions offer and consider whether there was anything that could be incorporated as part of Young Rangers.
When asked about the core purpose of Young Rangers, all staff had an excellent sense of what they felt was important and what they felt LGYR wanted to enable. (E.g. “build friendships”, “have the opportunity to do what they wouldn’t normally”, “be themselves”, “be outdoors”, “learn about their strengths and feel successful” “feel that they’ve done something well”, “have fun).
Communication & Links with Parents/Carers
Communication with parents is strong. Parents comment that since a review in administration support, information, events and respite dates are sent out timely and invoices and payments are sent and received easily.
LGYR are proactive in sharing information about provision and contact both parents directly as well as encouraging schools to identify and share information to pupils and parents whom they feel would benefit. +
Parents feel that the provision of LGYR is excellent. They report they feel extremely confident that their child is safe, happy and taken care of. They feel able to share information about their child and that staff take on board that information and act upon it accordingly, including ensuring age appropriate behaviour. They feel their children are understood and supported to develop confidence, engage in positive social opportunities and have fun. They report their children are extremely happy to go to young rangers and keen to return for further days.
Parents report they are extremely grateful for the unique respite opportunity, which was described as ‘exactly what my child needs’.
Staff from LGYR offer a direct hand over to parents/carers therefore share essential information about the young persons day face to face and parents. They also provide a closed social media group where parents can look at photos and information on what their child has been doing. Parents report that whilst they do not know everything that happens in the day, they feel they have enough information and are happy with the communication they receive. Parents have the opportunity to visit the farm on open days, and staff offer an open-door policy if parents would like further information. However, most parents extremely grateful for the respite opportunity and a sense of joy that their child has ‘a place of their own’ and wouldn’t want to encroach into their world. Parents report they are confident that they would be contacted if there was a problem and that staff are extremely open and honest about the necessary information.
Health & Safety, Safeguarding, Behaviour & Wellbeing
Young people were observed to thrive in the outdoor environment, becoming self-directed and purposeful in their activity. They were not restricted in their explorations but encouraged to test their limitations and try to problem solve how they could overcome obstacles. This promotion of ‘safe’ risk taking was observed to be of substantial benefits to the young people attending and the difference of an individual who was attending for the first time, could clearly be demonstrated within the day, with his behaviour being calm, considered and focused on the task. Young people go away with a confidence of not what they can’t do, but of what they can. As a result, staff report behaviour is generally not a significant issue and staff have appropriate measures to support them such as radios if they are required to do any lone working with individuals.
The appropriate safeguarding policy and recording and reporting procedures are in place and all staff are DBS checked. Lead staff are given external safeguarding training, and all other staff complete East Sussex online training upon employment and receive annual internal safeguarding refresher training. When speaking to staff they were confident in knowing the need to report and to whom if they had any concerns. Lead staff are confident in reporting procedures and feel supported by managers in how to deal with any safeguarding concerns as they arise. The Young Rangers commented that they feel happy and enjoyed LGYR and knew what to do and who to go to if they had a problem.
Quality of Leadership & Management
The Leadership of Little Gate Farm Young Rangers is strong. There is a clear sense of purpose which is disseminated to and shared by all staff. Leaders are exceptionally strong in their interviews and appointments ensuring they have the right staff to support and build culture.
Evaluation Completed By:
Assistant Head: Head of Lower School
Glyne Gap School