This is an archived press release
Wednesday 1 July 2015
A new outdoor classroom aimed at getting young people closer to the natural world has opened in the Peak District National Park.
The classroom, at Highcliffe Farm in Eyam, is part of Sheffield’s Brantwood Specialist School, which teaches students aged seven to 19 who have learning difficulties or special educational needs.
Students will have the chance to learn from a broad range of wilderness skills, green woodworking, textiles, agriculture, animal welfare and caring for the environment. They were also involved in all stages of the build, which began last summer, including felling the timber, making the framework and cladding the building.
A recent study by the RSPB suggests that large numbers of children are missing out on experiencing the natural world. The study found that only 21% of children aged 8-12 were “connected to nature” with its benefits to mental health and general wellbeing. The classroom will also provide a countryside learning centre for young people from Derbyshire, Sheffield and across the UK, with plans to develop an all-year learning space by extending facilities to include a field kitchen and compost toilets.
The classroom’s green roof was built with help from the Peak District National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund, and further significant support came from Wooden Spoon, the children’s charity of rugby, the Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation, Westfield Health Charitable Trust, the Sobell Foundation, Sheffield Town Trust and Hope Construction Materials.
The Ruskin Mill Trust operates Brantwood, along with Freeman College, its sister specialist college in Sheffield, and other centres in Gloucestershire, Birmingham, Pembrokeshire, Darlington and Stourbridge. Trust chief executive Aonghus Gordon attended the official opening – by former Derbyshire and England cricketer Geoff Miller - along with representatives of key partners, including Cllr Lesley Roberts, chair of the Peak District National Park Authority.
Cllr Roberts said: “This is a wonderful facility to have at the heart of the Peak District National Park. And the fact that it will be available to young people from right across the community and beyond is great news. You cannot help but be impressed by the work of the Ruskin Mill Trust and Brantwood and we very much hope that this will signal the beginning of a fruitful partnership for everyone involved.’’
Constantin Court, head teacher at Brantwood, said: “We are committed to making a positive impact on young people’s lives and helping them become the person they want to be, as well as becoming valued and integrated members of society. Many of the children and young people in our care have not had the opportunity to experience the fun and rewards of learning outdoor skills. Active engagement in countryside arts and crafts really helps them achieve their potential in all areas of educational and personal development.”