Practical Skills Therapeutic Education

All students are taught and cared for through our research-based method, Practical Skills Therapeutic Education (PSTE). Practically applied principles, known as the Seven Fields of Practice, underpin PSTE and guide each student’s journey.  These are: genius loci (spirit of place), practical skills, biodynamic ecology, therapeutic education, holistic support and care, holistic medicine and transformative leadership and management.

Practical Skills Therapeutic Education and the underpinning Seven Fields of Practice have been developed by Aonghus Gordon, drawing from the inspirations of Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925),  John Ruskin (1819 – 1900), and William Morris (1834 – 1896).

Through PSTE, we aim to help each student develop their own capacity for self-generated conscious action. Each student is provided with an individualised and tailored curriculum such that the practical skills they will engage with are those specifically chosen to meet their own developmental needs. A curriculum based on PSTE will be designed to enhance a student’s gross and fine motor skills, balance coordination, social skills development and also improve their academic skills in literacy and numeracy. Progress is measured using RMT’s Three Stage Process which focusses on progression towards independence: (1) overcoming barriers to learning, (2) becoming skilled and (3) contributing to community; achieved by careful engagement through guided choice, in which the student’s voice co-shapes the curriculum experience towards self-validation and contributing to community.

Studying at an RMT provision provides students with holistic learning through the role modelling positive relationships in the fields of arts, crafts, commerce, agriculture, nutrition, living skills and the environment. By immersing students within the productive aspect of our curriculum, students learn to care for their own well-being and development and overcome their barriers to learning. Practical Skills Therapeutic Education uses the simple but profound model of hand, head, heart and place, to explore the benefits to an individual’s development.

By providing students with the tools to transform material, they transform themselves. This is so students learn to recognise their capabilities and positively contribute to society, which is continuously celebrated through cultural events and arts festivals for staff, students and the wider community. We also provide opportunities to relate the curriculum to the wider world and work experience through social enterprise.

PSTE also extends into the residential 24-hour curriculum through holistic care and support, contributing to and improving general wellbeing and health. For example, students will produce craft and food items for their residential home, providing them with an opportunity to see their work appreciated in their home setting. Day students are also given opportunities to build up their home living skills. All students benefit from our seed-to-table practice including healthy eating and social development.

Seven Fields of Practice

Ruskin Mill Trust’s ‘Practical Skills Therapeutic Education’ works with Seven Fields of Practice to provide students with a truly holistic and integrative educational experience.  Whilst being distinct, the Fields of Practice form an educational continuum that assists in the structuring of the student journey.  The Seven Fields of Practice are subject to research up to the Master’s and PhD level and inform the staff training across the Trust.

Field 1 Genius Loci / Spirit of Place – Genius Loci recognises the heritage and uniqueness of locality. In each educational provision, we work holistically with the landscape, its geology, flora and fauna, and history of human activity, to develop specialist curriculum activities.

Field 2 Practical Skills – The field of Practical Skills, founded on craft and land-based activities, is designed to support students’ cognitive, emotional and physical development, and embed functional skills. Through sourcing material from the locality, forming it with their own hands and making an item of service for others, the students reconnect to the earth, themselves and their community.

Field 3 Biodynamic Ecology – Biodynamic Ecology recognises that each farm and garden is an integrated dynamic organism that responds to wider, more subtle, cosmic influences. Students follow a seed-to-table curriculum to celebrate nature’s rhythms, and are encouraged to eat healthily.

Field 4 Therapeutic Education – The journey of the students at Ruskin Mill Trust places an emphasis on facilitating wholeness where there is fragmentation, and movement where there is stagnation. This transformative approach to education is underpinned by the concept of phasic human development and applied sensory integration. By engaging with age-appropriate activities, students re-step missed developmental opportunities.

Field 5 Holistic Support and Care – The field of Holistic Support and Care stands behind the twenty-four hour educational curriculum and, in particular, the life of students in their residential provision. It is here that students actively engage in homemaking and mastering basic living skills. These learning experiences provide support for the development of healthy life processes.

Field 6 Holistic Medicine – Ruskin Mill Trust offers a range of holistic therapies to support students’ health and wellbeing in accordance with the whole human being approach. The field of Holistic Medicine is promoted through collaboration between a multi-disciplinary team of practitioners, support staff, doctors and nurses. At the heart of this field of practice is the student study.

Field 7 Transformative Leadership – Ruskin Mill Trust acknowledges and appreciates multiple intelligences, such as emotional and aesthetic intelligence, and situational awareness. To progress the student journey towards self-generated conscious action, staff are required to consciously role model positive relationships with other human beings as well as their environment.

The Seven Fields of Practice contribute to Ruskin Mill Trust’s vision that each individual has the potential to shape their own future through experiencing meaningful relationships with universe, earth and people.

Student and tutor in a jewellery craft lesson
Student and tutor in a jewellery craft lesson
Pupil in a pottery class
A pupil at Brantwood during a pottery session