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Student Impact

“I’d just like to thank you and all the staff for making A’s year such a positive one. I can genuinely say that I think this has been one of the best years of his life, thanks to Roots and Shoots.”

A student’s parent writes

Roots and Shoots’ holistic combination of vocational training, pastoral support, peaceful nature-filled grounds and collaboration with the community is proven to empower our students and help them find their unique path through life.

For 40 years we have helped between 15 and 45 students each year, with over 1000 students graduating from our Vocational Training programmes.

Students and staff at Roots and Shoots in the 1980s
Students and staff at Roots and Shoots in the 1990s
Students and staff at Roots and Shoots in the 2000s

All of our students are young Londoners, particularly from South London and Lambeth, who face a barrier to learning and work, and most have Education, Health and Care plans. Many have additional needs or disabilities which include anxiety, autism, ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome, Down’s syndrome, hearing impairment, visual impairment, speech, language and communication needs, mental health needs and complex medical needs. 

When they come to us, many of our students have been held back by negative attitudes and stereotypes. Some have experienced adversity and trauma in education or other parts of their lives and often have difficulty engaging with education and the world of work. We use a whole-team approach, working together with families and professionals from other services, who provide bespoke support to our students to help them to reach their potential.

"Roots and Shoots is masterclass in how to help someone with needs like N’s"

A student’s parent writes

93% Student Retention

Our students are young people who are vulnerable to leaving education early. When they join Roots and Shoots, many find that for the first time they are part of a community which listens to them, treats their needs and aspirations with respect and provides individualised support. We specialise in reaching “hard to reach” young people and over the past 3 years we have retained 93% of our students.

We are proud of our high retention rates, however we do not consider a student leaving us earlier than planned necessarily a negative as they may have secured employment or a place on further training which suits their aspirations. Others may be experiencing life events or changes which take priority, and may have a break in their education in order to meet other needs. Every student is in a unique situation, and has different needs and levels of support. We understand the importance of continuity and consistency of support, and so every student leaves Roots and Shoots with a transition plan or a destination.

Over the past two years, 45% of enrolled students are white British. The remaining 50+% of the group reflect the broad mix of ethnic communities in London, primarily London-born British citizens whose parents or grandparents were born outside of the UK, including European, African and Latin American countries.

“We are very happy with G's journey and progress at Roots and Shoots, the change in her has been spectacular, she is much happier than she used to be. She is at Roots the same way she is at home, thanks to Roots she got over her fears.”

A student’s parent writes

94.7% Achievement Rate

At Roots and Shoots, our Study Programme students achieve well, with 94.7% gaining their studied qualifications over the past 3 years.

Read more about our Study Programme

Often our students have not found mainstream school a good fit for learning and may have not achieved qualifications. We value bite size Entry Level and Level 1 qualifications where students can clearly see the progress they are making, which helps them gain confidence and self-belief. We want them to enjoy learning and take pride in their work, and so where exams have been difficult due to anxiety, we focus on portfolio-based folder work and practical qualifications. This work is viewed by parents/carers and external auditors who assess what our students have achieved.

Students perform well in vocational subjects including Horticulture, Retail and Floristry - with 90 - 100% achievement in vocational subjects. They have always excelled in practical and creative subjects, and the vocational qualifications they achieve often lead to the discovery of a passion and a future career path for them. During the pandemic these qualifications were especially important as they could be completed on the site in our outdoor classrooms and green spaces.


Our students have had a powerful positive impact on Roots and Shoots, the environment and the community. In 2023, our horticultural students received RHS School Garden Awards Level 2. The award-winning main site, the Bubble Gate garden, allotment and countless community gardens across the local area would not exist, and would certainly not be as beautiful or as biodiverse, without the hard work and dedication of our horticulture students over the past 40 years. This impact continues when our students graduate, with many going on to become professional gardeners across London, taking the Roots and Shoots ethos with them.

Read more about Roots and Shoots’ Environmental Impact

Students’ hard work, qualifications and achievements are a pathway to future qualifications in mainstream further education and are recognised by employers, helping them gain future employment.

Students watering the community Bubble Gate Garden
Students practicing their retail skills in the shop

“Since joining Roots and Shoots my confidence has changed, I'm not timid anymore, I've grown up and I’m more mature. I contribute more and listen to the teachers now and respect other students in conversations.”

A, a current student at Roots and Shoots

We also measure our impact by how much more comfortable students are when they are accepted for being themselves, how confident they feel about their future and how empowered they are to take their next steps with increasing independence. This is the “Learner’s Voice”. We regularly take surveys with them to better understand how they feel and what we can improve for them.

94% think that the Roots and Shoots is a safe place to study

87% of students say they feel happier since joining Roots and Shoots

92% of students feel more confident

88% Say they have learnt new skills and knowledge

To assist students’ growing confidence, many attend regular holistic support classes such as art therapy and speech and language therapy to help them develop their understanding of themselves and their communication skills. They also take part in a range of enrichment classes, activities and special trips to help them try new things in a supportive environment, make friends, and have fun.

Read more about the Enrichment Programme Read more about Holistic Support

Work Placements

We work on the expectation that students with learning needs and disabilities have the capability and capacity for sustained employment. Trust for London highlights that less than half of disabled people in London are in sustained employment, creating a substantial ‘disability employment gap’.

One in five adults of working age (16-64 years) is classed as disabled/having a disability, a third reporting long term health needs and around one in twelve report a severe disability

(ONS - Employment of Disabled People 2021). Younger disabled people are more likely to be unemployed once they complete their education, and the more complex their needs, the less likely they are to gain and sustain employment. Disabled people with severe or specific learning difficulties, autism and mental illness had the lowest employment rates. (ONS Outcomes for disabled people in the UK: 2021).

Roots and Shoots plays a vital part in this progress towards equality for Young Londoners by providing vocational training, supported work experience and internships so that our students skills can be demonstrated to employers and their suitability for employment clearly seen.

Read more about Careers and Work Experience

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Students on work placements across the community
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We work with employer partners to provide students with essential work experience, and promote the employment of disabled young people within their organisations. We liaise with them closely, developing their knowledge and understanding of specific conditions and disabilities, and providing high quality support throughout, to make work placements a mutually beneficial learning experience for all involved.

Working in all areas of the city, and across a range of industries and sectors, Roots and Shoots students demonstrate their value. Roles may be directly linked to their vocational training, such as parks or shops, but also demonstrate their transferable skills by undertaking roles in childcare, galleries and hospitality. 

With the support of the Specialist Careers Team and our dedicated Employment Partners, each young person takes an equal role in the workplace, increasing the visibility of disabled people in the labour market and the local community.

Read more about Roots and Shoots’ Community Impact

In the 21/22 academic year:

85% of our students took part in a work placement

32 different employers took on our students, ranging from local community groups to national chains 

Students did a total of 5775.75 hours worth of work at their work placements

“Over the nineteen years I have worked with Whippersnappers I have enjoyed meeting many students on work experience placements and H really stands out for me as being one of the most marvellously enthusiastic and supportive workers.”

Whippersnappers Staff


On graduating, our students go on to a variety of destinations including paid work, higher level courses, supported training and volunteering. Over the past two years, 33 students graduated or left Roots and Shoots. Of these, 24% went into paid work, 52% went into further education or training, 9% began an internship, and the remaining 15% are engaged with activities that meet their emotional and social needs, such as volunteering or therapeutic programmes.

Student destinations included paid work at the Collective Café, Mint People Events Agency and the Pig and Whistle, internships at Westminster City Council and Transport for London, and further study at Lambeth College, Southwark College, Waltham Forest College and Share Community.

During the same period, 45 students continued into their next year at Roots and Shoots, with 67% continuing onto their next year of Study Programme, 26.5% moving on from Study Programme into PreSupported Internship, and 6.5% extending their PreSupported Internship due to the pandemic. Thirty four new students also joined Roots and Shoots. 

We are extremely proud of each young person who studies with us and the outcomes they achieve, with support from our multidisciplinary staff team. Find out more about the positive impact Roots and Shoots has on its students with Graduate Stories.

“I was so happy at Roots and Shoots. Roots helped me when I was a student, and they helped me get a job. They helped me with my confidence, and I’m so grateful for it.”

C, a Roots and Shoots graduate
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School Links

Since 2012, our School Links Programme has helped over 500 school pupils, with many School Links pupils joining our vocational training programmes when they leave school.

The School Links Programme gives an opportunity for school pupils with a range of needs to experience our green spaces and learning beyond the classroom. Working with the familiar support staff from their own school and a subject-expert tutor from Roots and Shoots, learners are able to access weekly sessions of half or full day duration, depending on need.

In 2022 we worked with 60 young people from five different schools from across London, including the Lansdowne Turney Federation, Highshore School, Newlands Academy and Platanos College.

Read more about our graduates, as well as our impact on the environment and the local community below: