A FAMILY farm near Newport is teaching people “real life” skills outside a traditional school setting.

Husband and wife duo Eddie and Elaine Ford have sought to fill what they perceive as a gap in local education by offering vocational opportunities at their Goldcliff farm.

WELLIES – Work Experience on the Living Levels Including Educational Support – started as an animal care scheme. Six years later, visitors can hone a whole portfolio of practical skills, ranging from woodwork and horticulture to construction and forklift driving.

It caters to mental health groups, people with special educational needs, council services, and Scout groups, who use the forest school area to complete their night-out badge.

Mr Ford, 53, is keen to use the work that takes place at the farm to support other good causes. Learners provide flowers and planters for Langstone Vale Crematorium and recently built the base for Emma Webb's plastic horse on her fundraising walk to London, as well as a sleigh for Father Christmas' visit to Noah's Ark Children's Hospital.

South Wales Argus: Eddie and Elaine Ford with learners at Art on the Hill

They have also worked with litter pick group Pride in Pill, whose founder Paul Murphy won the Pride of Gwent Community Hero Award earlier this month.

“It’s really rewarding because when some learners come to us, we’re told about behavioural problems,” says Mr Ford.

“But they get so immersed in what they’re doing, like the chance to drive or work with the animals, we don’t have problems on the farm.

“If that school doesn’t suit, this does.”

“We both went to British Sign Language classes which helps us to communicate with visitors,” he adds. “We also enjoy seeing the satisfaction of learners progressing at tasks they simply wouldn’t get the chance to do in an everyday school environment.”

South Wales Argus: Machinery on the farm

Mr and Mrs Ford say the education unit is a self-funded enterprise with just a few donations from local businesses.

The community spirit has been reciprocated in other ways, too, with Glastonselfy Music Festival, based in Crosskeys, raising money for a specialist wheelchair trailer and veteran-run charity Bworkz helping to construct an accessible apiary on site.

“We’re trying to get them to experience real life so they can reach their full potential in life,” says Mrs Ford. All visitors benefit from the farm’s philosophy: not all classrooms have four walls.