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Berth of the ocean-going school project

It took nine years to build, the labour of a thousand boys and a school's reluctance to enter pupils for GCSE technology. Now pupils and teachers at the independent Bolton school in Lancashire are celebrating after completing a 48ft ocean-going yacht, writes Irena Barker.

Students from Years 7 to 13 in the boys' division were involved in creating everything from the hull to the galley of Tenacity of Bolton. The boat cost just a few thousand pounds to build, but has been valued at Pounds 450,000.

It was recently transported from a workshop on the school site to moorings at Glasson Dock in Lancashire where it will begin sea trials.

Pupils will then be able to sail their own 12-berth creation.

Mike Whitmarsh, right, the head of technology, said it had only been made possible because, for the first five years of the project, the school had not offered GCSE technology. This, he said, allowed pupils to spend lessons working on the boat, learning a wide variety of skills, without the pressure of creating extensive portfolios or individual projects.

Mr Whitmarsh, who oversaw the whole project, said: "By getting everyone involved in technology, but not offering exams until A-level, we had the freedom to do it. I've had lots of arguments with inspectors about not offering GCSE, but building the boat allowed pupils much more time for practical work and gave them experience of working as a team."

He said in the final four years of the project, the school, which charges annual day fees of pound;8,000, had started to offer the examined course, and work on the boat slowed up as it had to be done out-of-hours. Mr Whitmarsh, who is a finalist in the Teaching Awards, said other schools should be just as ambitious as Bolton. "While some schools laminated salad servers, we laminated deck beams."

Photograph: Lorne CampbellGuzelian

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