A group of special needs children from Wiltshire have become the first in the country to successfully complete the Open College Network (OCN) accredited course — Developing confidence through working with animals.

The course is part of ex-racehorse rehabilitation centre Greatwood’s Horse Power scheme, which works with children with special needs.

Former Gold Cup and Grand National winning jockey Mick Fitzgerald presented the 21 children with their certificates at Greatwood last Tuesday (24 February).

Horse Power is a unique project run by Greatwood, that provides the opportunity for children with special educational needs to learn communication skills and emotional literacy through interaction with rescued former racehorses.

The children began the course Developing Confidence Through Working With Animals, last term.

The course was written by Greatwood’s head of special needs, Laura Jones, and is accredited by the OCN.

The certificates are the first of their kind in the UK.

Laura said she wrote the course because she felt the children who have attended have made such great progress and should have something tangible.

The children keep a work folder and although there is minimal written work it is assessed by OCN.

“There are a lot of children who come to us who are not able academically and we wanted to be able to offer them a qualification. The feedback from schools has been overwhelming – now the children will have something to show for their work,” said Laura.

“The first entry level has a minimal written element, the assessment is more practically biased, so this would be particularly appropriate for our autistic children.”

The children will aim for two levels and the courses have credit value that can be used in future life when applying for college or work.

“All the young people here have been superb and risen to the challenge,” she said.

“Some with no knowledge of horses have worked with incredible courage. Thoroughbreds are powerful animals and not always easy – some adults wouldn’t do it.”

OCN Development Manager Peter Oakley said: “We are delighted to recognise Greatwood as a centre for OCN qualifications.

“I have been most impressed by the imagination, skill and commitment at Greatwood. It is impressive that animal care helps young people not only to learn about animals, but also to develop their personal, social and life skills.”

http://www.racehorsesgreatwood.org/