We are delighted to introduce Rob Watkins to you. Rob takes up position as Head of Farm at Jamie’s Farm Lewes in East Sussex. Rob knows Jamie’s Farm well, as former Principal at Carew Academy he would bring 5 groups of students to our farms each year. Carew Academy is an outstanding school and in particular caters to students with a wide range of ability levels and additional learning needs. We are thrilled to have Rob’s experience and expertise for these particular young people here at Jamie’s Farm. In his first couple of weeks with us in March, we had a few questions for Rob and would love to share his answers with you here.
1. What was your proudest achievement working with vulnerable children to date?
It is always fantastic to see young people achieve, particularly when they think they will not be able to do something! It is lovely seeing students who have visited Jamie’s Farm help deliver a lamb when they are very anxious at first. This was one thing many young people spoke about as a great memory when I was leaving my school and something they were most proud of from all their time at the school. It is also lovely to see young people achieve success in whatever accreditations they take regardless of the level – exam results days were always a highlight.
2. If you had one tip for our readers for how to help support children with SEN, what would it be?
The key to success is building relationships and getting to know each child as an individual. It is so important to listen to young people and take time to get to know them away from the classroom setting. I have always been involved in as many educational visits as possible, as this gives you time as a professional to build strong meaningful relationships which impact on future success. I would always encourage all school staff to spend at least one lunchtime each week at school outside talking to students, showing that you want to listen to what they have to say goes a very long way.
3. As a Headteacher, you managed to bring five visits per year to Jamie’s Farms. What made you feel that it was a worthwhile use of money?
It is always difficult to manage school budgets, but you always have to look at giving students lots of different opportunities for success and excellent preparation for adulthood. The farm visits inspired our students, and they became part of the culture of the school. The feedback from students, staff and parents made them value for money! Our school motto was ‘Let’s Show What We Can Do’ and there is no better place to do that in practice than at Jamie’s Farm.
4. What are you most looking forward to in your role at the Farm?
I am most looking forward to working alongside fantastic young people from a wide variety of schools who all have a story to tell and helping them realise their own potential for success. It has been a privilege working with the first two groups at Lewes, who have both been very different and seeing that the Jamie’s Farm ‘magic formula’ does not just work for students from my previous school but works universally for each young person who visits. Alongside that, I am looking forward to working with the animals and going on lots of lovely long walks in the countryside!
5. Is there any aspect of farm-life that you’re unsure of? How are you getting on with the farm smell?!
The farm smell is OK with me, I am used to being out in the countryside, so a as long as I can always have a nice warm shower after I have been out on the farm, I am always happy to get stuck in. I have enjoyed delivering my first two lambs over the last couple of weeks and taking part in the feeding rounds. I think the area I am least sure of is the farm garden, if you saw my ‘nature’ garden at home you would know I am not particularly green fingered – but I am happy to help with the digging and weeding when required. It has been a fantastic first two weeks at the farm and I look forward to getting to meet more amazing young people over the weeks, months, and years ahead.