My son W started at New Forest School in 2017. He has extremely high levels of anxiety and it’s incredibly difficult to get him to engage with anyone. His anxiety can be crippling at times. W did not have a healthy relationship with his mainstream school so we knew the transition to New Forest would be incredibly difficult for him. After many discussion with the school about W prior to him starting, a plan was put in place for him to start his sessions at the Farm. It was a very slow process to begin with. Just an hour once a week. This very slowly increased. The staff were phenomenal in going at a pace that was comfortable for W and building strong relationships at the same time. To begin with all of his negativity was directed at the farm. This was understandable, he did not have any trust in teachers. But the staff got to know W. They were amazing in communicating with me how W sessions were going, asking questions on W’s likes and dislikes. What they could do to make him feel comfortable and engage with him. They didn’t push him, they took it at a slow pace that he could cope with but at the same time implementing a routine and structure which is what he desperatley needed….even though he fought against it for a while. The school recognised the importance of routine and that W needed to continue it, so they continued his sessions during half term. I was truly touched that they were so commited to forming a positive relationship with him, that they knew by having a couple of weeks break during half term, that W would struggle even more to re-engage after having a break. And for me personally it was amazing. I felt very isolated and alone. No one in my life understood what I was going through but Mark organised a day at the farm for children, parents and staff. It was the most relaxed I had felt in years. To be around people who weren’t judging me and who understood exactly what it was like. I formed friendships with other mums that day and we still talk now two years later. W continued his sessions each week, during school time and half term. It was very difficult for quite some time, he would be very angry about going, refuse to wear the overalls, wouldn’t participate in any of the activities or interact with staff and peers. He would just stand in the background watching. This is exactly what he needed to do and the staff knew that. He needed to have time to feel safe, to know that the staff could be trusted, that they weren’t going to give up on him and that they cared. He needed time to get used to his new routine and know he could depend upon it. This was something that W had struggled with a great deal in his previous school, he was let down massively by them. The staff at New Forest knew this and worked so hard to build up his confidence and trust. His previous school let me down too, in awful ways. So I was of course nervous too, I didn’t know the staff at New Forest, I didn’t trust anyone. I would drop W at his sessions at the farm and park around the corner. That quickly went away. I was amazed at how quickly I trusted them. I could see how commited all the staff are in how they interacted with the children. How passionate they are about their work, how much they care about the children, their ability to be flexible in catering for each child’s needs individually and the communication is nothing I have ever experienced. That was key for me, to be informed in detail about his school day would better prepare me for his moods at home and vice versa. I was blown away, I still am. W’s sessions at the farm are what started his journey of positive relationships with staff AND peers. It did take a long time, but now he is enthusiastic about going to the farm and school. He engages in EVERY session at the farm. Not only does he do all the tasks, but he does them happily. This is because he feels safe, he was and still is fully supported by people who went above and beyond for him. That’s what all the staff at New Forest do. By them being so flexible, understanding and knowledgeable to cater the sessions to his needs and continue these sessions even during half term, I now have a son who travels 80 miles to and from school everyday. I truly believe it’s down to those first few months at the farm that enabled my son to have trust in staff, even when he’s having a very bad day, he knows he’s safe with them, as do I. Thank you