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2:00pm Tuesday 25th December 2012 in News
Since project manager Laura Jones began working at the Greenfields Campus in Goatacre, she has been amazed by the enthusiasm of pupils taking lessons in animal care.
The campus was opened last month by Springfield Academy in Calne and the school, which cares for vulnerable children with learning difficulties, has a vision for teaching outside the classroom.
Since the beginning, activity on the site has been non-stop and Mrs Jones is now in charge of four pigs, two ponies, two goats, three turkeys and 12 hens, as well as primary and secondary school pupils from across Wiltshire.
Secondary school pupils can take a vocational course to gain a nationally acclaimed qualification.
The course shows them how to look after the farm animals and goes into the commercial side of farming, which will allow them to continue training at Lackham College or to look for apprentices in animal care.
Primary school children can also sit down for animal therapy lessons with Mrs Jones and her assistant Harriet Baulu, who help them to develop nurturing skills by brushing and feeding animals.
Mrs Jones, who is a qualified zoologist, used to work at London Zoo and more recently provided her services at the Greatwood horse rehabilitation centre in Marlborough.
She said she was pleased to hear feedback from the children saying how they love animals, even though they might have never petted one before their visit.
She said: “The lovely thing is that we have some children who are struggling to attend school and their attendance here has been 100 per cent.
“They’re almost turning into team leaders, they’re working really hard and supporting other students.
“One thing that stands out for me is a little boy who is in care who has had a really tough time. We had a wheel barrow and one of the pigs, who is quite naughty, jumped into the wheel barrow. He just laughed and laughed and I thought, ‘I wonder when the last time he has laughed that much was’.”
To get the farm ready, Mrs Jones worked closely with Trystan Williams, head teacher at the Springfields Academy, but she also has her own ideas for the future.
She hopes to run Saturday club and holiday clubs, as well as set up a farm shop to provide students on catering courses with local produce.
She said: “It’s my favourite job so far. The wonderful thing as well is that Trystan has given us a free reign in terms of developing the site.
“It’s nice to have that trust and belief from him.”