Best Practice Forums

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Dates for your diary...

Annual Conference 2020

We have had to cancel our planned Annual Conference due to be held on September 8th 2020 in Oxford but we will be holding an online conference on Friday 6th November 2020.

Trauma Informed Practice: Using a Bio-psycho-social Model to Promote Recovery from Trauma

More details to be announced.

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Best Practice Webinar

‘Recovery through Enrichment’ Friday 25th September 2020, 9.30am – 11.30am, online (zoom)


Former Virtual School Head and Co-Director of training and consultancy company, Aspiring for Children, Bernadette Alexander is also Enrichment Coordinator on behalf of John Lyon’s Charity for the Virtual Schools of Barnet, Brent, Ealing and Harrow. She believes that the use of specific enrichment activities, focused on supporting the young person’s social, emotional and mental health, can be most beneficial in the recovery from childhood trauma. 

Bernadette will introduce three examples of such enrichment, Jamie’s Farm, A New Direction and Strength in Horses. See below for more information and speaker biographies

Jamie’s Farm

Jamie’s Farm acts as a catalyst for change, enabling disadvantaged young people, primarily aged 11-16 and at risk of social and academic exclusion, to thrive, and improving the way in which they are engaged in education. We do this through a unique weeklong residential experience, whereby small groups of young people and their staff are involved with the daily running of our livestock farms in a positively modelled family environment without technology, and follow-up programme. We provide 1:1 and group sessions to support young people to develop new positive patterns and work in partnership with schools and local authorities to increase their ability to reach their potential long term.

Ruth Youth – Head of Farm, Jamie’s Farm Hereford

Ruth grew up in London and graduated in English at Birmingham University. In 1999 she started working at the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts and initiated the Festival’s programme for families and young people, which is still running today under the banner Hay Days.

Inspired by her observation of the profound relationships that could be formed when adults and young people shared stories, Ruth trained as a teacher in 2008 and worked as a secondary school English teacher for a number of years. In 2014, Ruth became the Vice-Principal at the Steiner Academy Hereford – a state-funded school striving to hold to an ethos which nurtures and celebrates the child whilst ensuring an education which meets the demands of the 21st century. It is Ruth’s belief that self-esteem is key to success, and interactions with and within nature encourage self-esteem, which has finally brought her to Jamie’s Farm. Ruth started as Head of Farm in Monmouth and helped set up of our third site before taking a sidestep and joining our Hereford team in early 2019 to be closer to home.

Beth Walker – Therapy Coordinator, Jamie’s Farm Monmouth

Beth graduated from Cardiff University with a degree in Occupational Therapy. She has since completed a postgraduate certificate in Sensory Integration, trained as a Sleep Practitioner and completed a certificate in Counselling. Beth has worked as a therapist in schools with children and young people with autism and language and communication difficulties, and most recently within a children and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) supporting children with learning disabilities and behaviours that challenge.

As Therapy Coordinator, Beth leads group meetings and has personalised therapeutic conversations with all young people who visit the farm, in order to help them piece together pathways for their future success on returning to school.

Kathryn Angelini – Deputy Head Teacher of Hillingdon Virtual SchoolKathryn graduated from Leeds University, studying History, in 2006 and went on to gain her PGCS in secondary education. After a number of years working in mainstream settings Kathryn moved into Virtual School settings. It was here that she felt fully able to support some of the most vulnerable young people in education. Working within a virtual school has given Kathryn an excellent understanding of attachment and trauma. She is part-way through a Masters in Attachement and all her work within Hillingdon supports it to be a trauma-informed setting.

A New Direction, We Belong Programme

Holly Donagh, Deputy CEO

We Belong is a programme designed by Care Leavers to tackle loneliness and build a supportive, creative community led by children in care. This arts rich programme aims to connect children in care with each other and raise awareness of their experiences, giving them a space, platform and voice. A New Direction is working with children and young people ages 13 to 18-year-old in the care of London Boroughs of Brent, Barnet, Ealing and Harrow. The programme is supported by Co-op Foundation, part of the national Building Connections Fund supported by HM Government and National Lottery Community Fund.

A New Direction is London’s leading cultural education agency generating opportunities for children and young people to unlock their creativity and shape culture. We work with partners across education, culture and the creative industries, local government and business, to support children and young people to be creative and experience culture, while identifying areas of inequality and campaigning for policy change.

As Deputy CEO, Holly builds partnerships with key stakeholders in London and across the world, as well as overseeing the organisation’s research, campaigning and communications activity. Holly is an experienced arts leader, committed to getting more young Londoners involved in the creative life of the city.

Shabnam Karimzada

Shabnam is a 21 year old Care Leaver currently in her third year at Royal Holloway University reading Politics and International Relations. She does voluntary work for Ealing Virtual School, helping younger children in care, and with Look Good, Feel Better Charity. Shabnam also works part-time for A New Direction and for Coram Voice.

Strength and Learning Through Horses

Strength & Learning Through Horses is a charity partnership operating from a specialist stables in North London which exclusively serves vulnerable or disadvantaged young people and adults. All our work focuses on empowering people to make positive change in their lives through building relationships with horses.

We engage excluded young men and women with high levels of mistrust in professionals via developing positive relationships with horses, therapists and specialist staff. This allows young people to develop their reflective capacities around relationships and address these difficulties; improving relations with self, family, staff and peers and leading to improved engagement with professionals, services and opportunities.


Serena Urquhart

Serena is an EAGALA Certified Equine Assisted Psychotherapist working across all the services at Strength and Learning Through Horses.

She is a qualified Integrative Art Psychotherapist, registered with the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC). Over the past 9 years she has delivered therapeutic services to both children and adults in voluntary sector organisations and the NHS working in Adult Mental Health services.


Dr Jemma Hockley

Dr Jemma Hockley (DClinPsy). Jemma is an HCPC registered Clinical Psychologist with a further diploma in Systemic Approaches. She has been researching the use of horses in promoting mental wellbeing since 1998, with the aim of developing understanding and awareness of Equine Therapy amongst the mental health profession.

Jemma founded SIH in 2008 following her doctoral research on the positive impact of Equine Therapy on mental health service users in the UK. She is the clinical lead at Strength and Learning Through Horses and supervises staff and trainees from Clinical Psychology courses.

Visit Strength and Learning through Horses website

Some comments from our Best Practice Forum attendees…

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" The research confirmed the vital role that social relationships and nurturing environment play in helping children recover "
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