Ruskin Mill Education Trust
25-06-2011 | For a quarter of a century, Ruskin Mill Educational Trust has pioneered a unique, holistic and student-centred approach to the education and care of young people who fall between the cracks of mainstream provision. Working with people with complex educational needs, the Trust's hands-on approach to learning provides inspiration and direction to lives clouded by disability, trauma and prejudice.
School of thought
Ruskin Mill Educational Trust runs independent specialist colleges for young people aged 16-25 with complex learning and behavioural difficulties. Many students have autistic spectrum conditions such as Asperger's Syndrome, which affect around one in a hundred people in the UK. The Trust's purpose is to improve the lifetime opportunities for all people with learning disabilities, and, since 1986, generations of students have benefited from its practical skills therapeutic education, a unique programme that draws its inspiration from Rudolf Steiner, John Ruskin and William Morris.
The Trust operates three successful and expanding colleges for young adults and is set to open its first school for children with special educational needs in September. Each centre draws on the traditional skills of the local area, combining a practical craft and land-based curriculum with an arts, social and cultural programme, and fostering a broadened relationship with the wider community.
Preserving traditional skills
The Trust's original base, Ruskin Mill College in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, is set in over 100 acres of beautiful wooded valley, including a biodynamic farm, an organically run trout farm and a large area of sustainable woodland. The setting provides abundant opportunities for learning activities in a wide range of practical skills, land-based and traditional crafts for students. Glasshouse College was founded in 2000 on the old Royal Dalton crystal factory in Stourbridge, West Midlands and includes the Ruskin Glass Centre which provides studio glass workshops. This not only offers students with valuable work experience but reflects a core principle of the Trust to engage in the regeneration of crafts and skills threatened with extinction. Freeman College, founded in 2005, is set in the heart of the traditional metal working district in Sheffield, and includes these skills in the curriculum.
The Trust works with hand, head, heart and place to provide students with the tools to transform materials and in doing so transform themselves. In doing so they come to recognise themselves and others, develop self and social awareness and are empowered to achieve and make positive contributions to society at large, giving back in a self-directed, productive and enjoyable way. Each college offers qualifications, work experience, vocational training and access to external courses with the aim of preparing each student for transition into the wider world at the end of their three-year course. The holistic approach builds self-confidence through achievement, vocational and life skills, social respect and a sense of place within the community at large.
Ruskin Mill Educational Trust has continued to flourish in the current economic environment and is in the process of diversification and expansion. Later in the year it will open Brantwood Specialist School in Sheffield for 7 - 19 year olds with special educational needs, with the support of Triodos Bank finance. Brantwood will meet the Trust's ambition to extend its provision to an earlier age range, and offer children and young people who have a range of behavioural and learning difficulties opportunities to learn and grow within a holistic and inclusive educational, residential and community framework.