1st year Diploma Bursary students smiling in front of sunflowers
A big Thrive welcome was given to a new cohort of 18 students from across the UK as they arrived at our Reading centre last month.

The new students begin two years of study for the Thrive Diploma in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH). A week later those who began their journey just 12 months ago, began their second and final year.

Both sets of students kicked off with face-to-face lectures and practical sessions at Thrive’s centre and gardens near Reading, although home study will be a key component of the learning experience.

We’re also so excited to be able to support people who want to access higher education, due to the generosity of the John Weightman Bursary. The family of John Weightman have chosen to support Thrive in his memory by providing funding towards the development of the Diploma, as well as three bursary places a year for three years. Meet some of bursary students here and find out more about the course!

Thrive’s Diploma in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture aims to equip students with a higher education qualification that will boost the professional standing of those working in the sector. We hope very much that on completion, students will be able to use STH effectively in any practice situation.

Welcoming this year’s intake, Thrive’s Training, Education and Consultancy Manager, Damien Newman, said, “It has been great to meet the new students in our 2nd cohort for the Diploma, who bring a mix of skills and education very relevant to STH. We hope that they will support the overall learning experience as we support them to round off their skillset and become effective practitioners of excellence in any STH context.”

The training team also welcomed back its first cohort for their 2nd year and were impressed by their progress within their practices during the summer months;

We have already seen the emergence of deep thinking and understanding of STH emerge, and this year will provide them with more challenges to grasp focusing on practitioner relationships, the social environment and finally professionalism in STH.

Damien Newman, Thrive

During the year they will put all their learning into effect as they develop an STH programme in its entirety, and as with our previous Diploma, we hope this will be the inspiration and blueprint for many new valuable STH programmes around the country. Through this process we hope the Diploma will contribute to creating a situation in the UK where everybody, no matter where they live, will have the option of accessing STH to support their recovery and independence.

First year Bursary student, Gemma Foley, from Leeds said she was very surprised to win the award, “I never win anything. I was very grateful and excited at the opportunity”

Gemma took on an allotment over 20 years ago and started work more recently with a conservation charity, “I love people and I love plants; I’m hoping to implement what I’m learning here into a more structured approach with students. So far it’s been really interesting going back into the classroom and everyone is very supportive.”

Jess Rogaly is another bursary student and lives in Edinburgh; “I did the RHS Course in horticulture about 18 years ago and an apprenticeship in gardening after having children.

I’d kept an eye on Thrive’s courses over the years and then I thought, this is the year I can make it work.

Jess, Diploma student

Jess hopes the Diploma will give her more confidence. “It’s not, as Damien puts it, ‘being nice to people and chat while you garden.’ This course will make a difference and help the service I work for, I’ll be able to say, ‘I’ve got this qualification, I could deliver that”.

The third recipient of this year’s John Weightman bursary is Hayley Watson from Rochdale who’s already completed two courses with Thrive and previously worked with adults with learning disabilities, as well supporting people with dementia.

“My business partner had completed the Diploma with Thrive and recommended I came. Hayley explains, “The bursary is great because it gives people like me the opportunity to extend their learning. It’s just great to be around like-minded people you can bounce ideas off. They all come from similar backgrounds and have the same interests. My business partner passed away two years ago during Covid hence I feel I needed to be here too, to get the same recognition.”

Hayley - diploma student - smiling in Thrive garden
Hayley - Diploma 2022 student

Second year Bursary students, Gina, Van Quan and Linda returned two weeks ago. Van continues to lead sessions through our core therapeutic programme at our London centre in Battersea Park and is enjoying the reflective element in year two of the programme. “I love deepening my understanding and independence. I’m looking forward to fine tuning my practice and reinvigorating something you weren’t sure about makes me think about what’s relevant and what’s not.”

Linda is putting her learning into action each week at ‘L’arch Centre’ in Belfast, supporting people with learning disability, and has been developing the site to enhance the passive value of being in gardens, complementing the existing nursery provision they already have in place.

Gina continues to develop a site for people with young onset dementia and unfortunately missed the presentation day as it was the only possible day to get a large polytunnel erected on site.

We wish everyone the best of luck with their studies and ongoing development of their practices!

Discover more about the Diploma in STH

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Diploma day 1 8