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Cultivating Futures: Birmingham’s Green Path for Students with Learning Difficulties 

Two foundation learning tutors from South & City College’s Bournville campus in Longbridge were recently invited to Thrive Birmingham’s celebration of clinching a remarkable £250k grant from the National Lottery. The purpose? To ensure the perpetuity of the TV Gardens in the verdant King’s Heath Park.  Thrive Birmingham is an inspiring initiative, offering therapeutic gardening programmes to people with a defined health, social or educational need. It’s not just about planting and pruning; it’s about cultivating lives and fostering well-being. 

South & City College Foundation Learning students share the TV Garden facilities when they go on horticultural work experience with the City Council Park Rangers. These practical encounters serve as a bridge between education and professional development, granting students the confidence to thrive in diverse work environments. The college has had a relationship with Birmingham Council over several decades to deliver horticultural work-based education. 

Gardening isn’t merely about nurturing plants; it offers a multitude of mental and physical health benefits. For students with learning difficulties, it is a transformative project. Studies reveal that gardening, integrated into education or community settings, fosters social bonds, emotional well-being, and reduces stress, depression, and anxiety. It also enhances confidence and provides quiet moments for self-reflection.

Students get to work on many aspects of horticulture, from potting-up to potting-on, to conservation work such as learning the heritage art of hedge-laying, laying paths, and planting seasonal flower beds. 

Beyond the garden’s bounds, in the classroom, students are equipped with skills that transcend the soil. They craft items for sale, like enchanting Christmas wreaths or charming Mother’s Day planters, fostering not just creativity but also financial independence. 

Wendy Harris-Hill, Foundation Learning tutor explained “The horticultural course for our Foundation Learning students really builds their confidence, self-esteem and understanding of a professional environment, as they get to work alongside Council staff. The impact? Students have not only gone on to work in horticulture but also a radio station, a tearoom and another has the confidence to work in customer service.” 

One of the foundation learning students added, “I love being in the TV Gardens because it’s very fulfilling to know you’ve grown flowers for the garden. I also love being part of a team and achieving a lot including getting my Functional Skills. My tutor Wendy is great to learn from.”