Skills and Education Group Award for social mobility and widening participation - Bridgwater & Taunton College Case Study

Gardening is enjoyed by millions as a source of relaxation, and is used effectively by Bridgwater & Taunton College to attract, engage and support vulnerable adults.

Two horticulture-based initiatives are addressing mental health issues among a diverse local adult population, many former drug and alcohol addicts who have moved hundreds of miles in a bid to break destructive relationships and cycles of behaviour. Practical, gardening-based tasks delivered both at college and at local allotments promote mental and physical wellbeing through the calming and therapeutic benefits of connecting with nature.

A first-class curriculum, combined with inspirational surroundings and the unrelenting support of tutors and wellbeing staff is having a hugely positive impact on the lives of troubled adults, with many successfully re-engaging with society and progressing to further qualifications and employment.

These programmes are helping break down barriers to social inclusion, not only by supporting learners to re-engage with society and enter employment, but by encouraging them to participate in sustainable community projects that enhance public perception and understanding of mental health.

We are now discussing how the programme might be adapted to benefit younger people with mental health issues, as well as ways in which the learnings might help schoolteachers deal with pupils’ challenging behaviour.