Alternative Education

Alternative Education

“Education must not simply teach work – it must teach life.”  W E B Du Bois

Our approach

The Sustainable Land Trust offers a range of practical, outdoor training as an alternative to mainstream education. We work with those not in education, employment or training, the long term unemployed, those excluded from school, or those in danger of being excluded from school. Being outdoors and using nature as a classroom has been proven to have wide ranging positive effects on young people and their development.

Landscapes and ecosystems offer us a great place for learning and improving our health and wellbeing.  Based on a 1,200 acre farm with over 350 acres of habitat we provide plenty of opportunities for people to develop practical skills and gain qualifications alongside benefiting from the calming atmosphere of the outdoors.


Supporting Young People

By working with local schools, charities, and service providers, we offer land based training, pastoral care, work experience opportunities, and bespoke courses adapted to meet individual needs. Our learners are taught in small groups of no more than 4, which means they get personalised support, care and teaching. We work closely with Behaviour Partnerships, social services, and schools supporting young people in need of alternative education across both Key Stage 3 and 4.

Promoting positive attitudes and aptitudes

Through learning with us our participants can expect:

  • to be provided with the opportunity and setting to reflect on their behaviour and be supported make a positive change
  • to engage in exciting, practical activities designed to challenge them both physically and mentally
  • to gain recognised qualifications to support them into land based careers
  • to have the confidence to enter other types of careers, having developed social skills and talents that are fully transferable
  • to be offered opportunities to meet and work with local employers and colleges
  • to be encouraged develop entrepreneurial skills

Outdoor learning – using the environment as a classroom

Based at Burrough Court, between Melton Mowbray, and Leicester we offer a nurturing environment where people can flourish, whether that is enjoying the calm landscape vistas, or doing active conservation and horticultural work.  Students learn using the outdoors as their classroom, and we have access to 1,200 acres of lowland farmland and habitats across two sites: Burrough on the Hill, and Pickwell.

Marefield Corner is our dedicated habitat, green wood craft, and livestock site, and is used as our wild basecamp.

The Humboldt Centre is within one of the barns and incorporates a woodworking and stonemasonry workshop, field study centre,   foraging kitchen and is used for indoor teaching and wet weather activities.

Our Kitchen Garden offers a range of horticultural activities from designing, landscaping, growing, composting, harvesting,…and eating!

Students working outside the Humboldt Centre.  They are challenged to make their tools, gather natural resources and make their own products for sale


Courses & Work Experience

We work closely with our partners to provide a range of courses that meet the needs of our students and their schools. We are an accredited training provider with C&G, NCFE, and Cache, with a record of high quality provision and course management.

Our chosen subjects are reviewed annually to be compliant with Progress 8 requirements and to provide diversity in creating a broad curriculum for the student.  Subjects are taught using highly practical methods and adjusted to suit the individual. Students enjoy progressing with us and are generally with us for one plus years.

See below for the following courses:

  • Skills for Working Life: Land Based
  • Level 1 & 2 Land Based (specialisms in horticulture, environmental conservation, agriculture, animal care)
  • Level 1 & 2 Creative Craft (specialisms in artisan and rural crafts)
  • Level 1 & 2 Business & Enterprise (specialisms in land based sector)

Key Stage 3

Entry Level 1-3 Skills for Working Life: Land Based

This course will help you to develop the personal and work-related skills that could enable you to progress into further learning, supported employment, or enhance your independent living skills.

You can  choose specialist employment related units in animal care, gardening, conservation, ecology, and forestry, whilst developing the kind of skills and ability that are of interest to you. By taking units in areas which you enjoy, you will also boost your confidence.

At Entry Level You will combine your learning with practical work experience alongside our own specialist team. You can stage your learning starting with an Award, and progressing through Certificate, through to Diploma level.

You can also study Level 1 courses at Key Stage 3 – see below for details

Key Stage 4

Note: courses listed as * are Department of Education approved Progress 8 courses and count towards the progression of the student at Key Stage 4

Levels 1 & 2* Land Based Studies

Level 1 will suit you if you are just starting out and want to gain basic knowledge and skills needed to  move on to further study or get an   entry level job working in agriculture, conservation, forestry, animal care or horticulture. You will be taught whilst gaining valuable work  experience and practical skills which are bought together in your own portfolio.  You can choose from Award, Certificate or Diploma levels.

At Diploma level you can specialise in horticulture, environmental conservation, animal care, or agriculture.

Level 2 Technical Award* will explore how historical land use and management has changed from a greater emphasis on food production to an emphasis on sustainability, environmental management and public access. You will find out how science plays a major role in the modern land-based sector by investigating different parts of the industry, roles of plants/crops and animals, whilst considering the importance of biosecurity.

  • Level 1 Key Stage 3.4 taught 1-3 days per week (dependent upon needs of individual students)
  • Level 2 Key Stage 4 taught 2-3 days per week (dependent upon needs of individual students)

Levels 1 & 2* Creative Crafts – rural and heritage crafts

These courses are designed for learners with an interest in craft and can be delivered in a variety of contexts.  Examples include traditional, heritage, and rural crafts using natural materials such as wood and stone.

Craftspeople use a variety of techniques and understand which materials, tools and equipment to select and how to keep their working environment safe.










You will develop craft skills and knowledge of materials and techniques and how to use them in a safe and competent manner.

The project brief will provide you with a starting point from which to explore your own craft ideas. As you work through the process of developing a craft project, you will build a portfolio of work  evidencing your achievements throughout the course.

  • Level Key Stage 3.4 taught 1-2 days per week (dependent upon needs of individual students)
  • Level 2 Key Stage 4 taught 2 days per week (dependent upon needs of individual students)

Levels 1 & 2* Business & Enterprise

This is designed for learners who want an introduction to  business and enterprise that includes a vocational and hands-on element.

It has been developed to fit alongside our existing student enterprises using natural materials (e.g. timber, foraged plants), and those products from livestock and horticultural production (eggs, meat, plant sales).

The qualification will appeal to learners who wish to either set up their own business, move into employment or progress onto further study.

  • Level Key Stage 3.4 taught 1-2 days per week (dependent upon needs of individual students)
  • Level 2 Key Stage 4 taught 2 days per week (dependent upon needs of individual students)

Combining Courses

Students can combine courses to give them a range of options, as well as gaining support for traditional curriculum subjects such as English, Maths, Science (Biology), and Geography.

Embedding GCSE’s

We work with Loughborough University, Natural England, the Environment Agency and others  to carry out research on the farm looking at a range of different methods of managing land sustainably.  Our young people are actively involved – carrying out surveys, collecting and analysing data, improving habitats.  This gives them a unique experience beyond what a school can offer and helps them value the contribution they can make to society.

Students monitor the populations of the American Signal Crayfish – a species that is devastating the ecology of our UK rivers

These activities contribute to Science, Maths, English, and Geography which can be embedded into our projects to help students understand their GCSE subjects.

Providing skills for work

On a daily basis young people get involved in a wide range of outdoor activities that are directly linked to careers within the land based sector:

  • Ecology and wildlife management
  • Practical conservation
  • Land and estate management
  • Game keeping
  • Horticulture and landscaping
  • Traditional heritage skills – woodwork and stone masonry
  • Livestock management

We support students with careers advice, jobs search, and mock interviews.  Many of our students progress into further education or local employment.