Belfast Telegraph

Harberton Special School on the trail for votes

By Rebecca Petticrew

Harberton Special School is hoping to secure the future of its innovative Tree Trail project when the People's Millions live TV competition airs on UTV later this month.

The Harberton to Taughmona Tree Trail will provide a unique resource for children with special needs in south Belfast, turning a strip of overgrown wasteland surrounding both Harberton Special School and Taughmona Primary School into an interactive tree trail.

The trail will include a wide variety of trees, along with play equipment, a seated story telling area and a pathway, giving children a safe and interesting area to play, learn and exercise outdoors.

The trail will be brought bang up to date by allowing people to use smartphones or tablet PCs to scan barcode-like images which will be dotted throughout the trail to gain online information about the tree, plant or installation they are looking at.

Harberton teacher Ursula Reid said the project would "massively change" the lives of children with special educational needs in south Belfast. "Our campus is shared with Glenveagh, Oakwood and Fleming Fulton schools, which are all for children with different levels of special needs and they would all have access to the trail – which is the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland to the best of my knowledge.

"There is a big push at the moment on outdoor education and trying to get children outside and learning outside and a lot of research has shown that for children with behavioural difficulties, their behaviour can be modified more easily when they're outside in a more natural environment.

"A lot of our pupils, because of their learning difficulties, have limited access to the outdoors so we're hoping that we can get them outside in an area that they're familiar with, where they feel safe."

Six Northern Irish projects have been chosen to go head-to-head in the People's Millions – a partnership between Big Lottery Fund and ITV, which has awarded £27.8m to community projects over the last seven years.

Representatives from the groups will put their case for the public's vote to win the funding, with the winners decided by phone vote.

One award will be made each night for three nights – November 25-27 – with a bonus award being announced on November 28 for the runner up with the most votes.

Ursula said everyone's hopes are pinned on securing the money: "Without the funding it is incredibly unlikely that we'll be able to complete the programme to the same extent; it's all resting on this."

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