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  • Writer's pictureCavendish Education

Taking steps to be the best you can be

We are delighted to announce Footprints Life Camp, in partnership with The Holmewood School, won the National Autism Professional Award for Most Creative Community Project out of several hundred nominations at an awards ceremony in Harrogate on the 7th March 2017.

Founded in February 2016 by Naj D’Silva, an outstanding senior teacher at the Holmewood School in London (Ofsted 2015), Footprints Life Camp has been working to increase the independence of young autistic people through the combination of farming, outdoor education and life-skills.

Footprints has grown to a small team of brilliant staff, volunteers and partners without whom none of this success would have been possible. The enterprise was set up to reduce social exclusion, increase independence and promote life-skills of young people on the autistic spectrum.

A case study carried out by Naj D’Silva in 2014 revealed the impact of outdoor learning and farming on the social and emotional development of vulnerable young people on the autistic spectrum was significant.

  1. 87% of students felt they would do more school work outside in the fresh air and 78% felt less angry while learning outdoors compared to in school. 

  2. 100% of students felt more happiness doing their work outside/on the farm than in school and could work better with others in an outdoor learning environment than in school.

In 2016 it was reported that three quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prisoners (less than 60 minutes per day). A fifth of children did not play outside at all on an average day. (The Guardian, 2016) These statistics were shocking, particularly considering the conclusions from the case study. All of the above were taken into account when setting up Footprints Life Camp.

The camp runs during the school holidays and offers activities such as animal care at a local farm including lambing days, swimming sessions, trips to the beach, barbeques and forest school activities as well as a residential at Lee Valley and a Footprints Cafe run by the students.

Each activity has a specific focus on social/emotional/life-skill development delivered by specialised staff and a very high staff-student ratio. It also offers paid internships to young people on the autism spectrum. With a recent NAS survey suggesting that just 16% of autistic people are in full time paid work, Footprints Life Camp is trying to break down barriers to employment. Social impact has been significant with  100% of young people who attended the camps and their parents believing Footprints Life Camp increased self-esteem, independence and social skills in 2016.

‘Footprints Life Camp made my child’s world a bigger and better place. On Friday night he was delighted with himself, a very happy little boy. He never usually wants to leave the house. Footprints Life Camp did that, priceless and immeasurable’ (Michelle, parent).

Footprints has helped me to achieve confidence and I learned how to do things independently. Caring for the animals helped me feel responsible’ (Francis)

Founder and Director of Footprints Life Camp, Naj D’Silva, said: “ feel incredibly honoured to have won the NAS award for Most Creative Community Project of 2017. This award is dedicated to all the young people we work with currently and in the future who inspire us every day.  Our aim, over the past year, has been to give young autistic people the opportunity to be the best they can be by reducing social exclusion and increasing independence leading to a bright and most importantly happy future.”

Lisa Camilleri, Head Teacher of The Holmewood School, said, “I am delighted that the work of Footprints Life Camp has been recognised through the Autism Professionals Awards and am exceptionally proud of Miss D’Silva.  The service is exciting, fun and highly praised by students and families across London.  The internships on offer provide an excellent foundation for teaching Holmewood’s 16-19 year olds about the world of work and how to be an integral part of our local community.”

If you are interested in sponsorship of Footprints Life Camp or if you have a child who would like to attend a camp please see below for contact details. 

T: @footprintscamp



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