Innovative practice - Recycling

Reusing furniture and discarded bicycles for design and technology classes, fundraising and charity

Cornelia Lucey

The background

St Christopher's School was already known in Wrexham for its work on sustainability. In 1996, it launched an environmental taskforce run by pupils who go out into the community to complete environmental projects such as clearing waste ground, beaches or rivers, tidying senior citizens' gardens and helping other schools.

When the school moved to a new site in 2000, it recycled everything that was of use in the old building. Some items such as radiators and sinks were sold while others - including a drystone wall - were moved.

The school also has a charity shop which recycles clothes or sends them abroad. Last year, the students found themselves increasingly collecting unwanted furniture from their local community.

The project

As more and more furniture was handed in, students saw the value of collecting the unwanted items and selling them on, and began leafleting the local community about their skills in turning old furniture around.

The furniture recycling business even makes use of the school van to go and collect the donated items. Once transformed, the furniture is given to senior citizens or sold on to new homebuyers or local people.

The most popular items are sofas, tables and chairs, and members of the public have even begun to place orders, which the students then prioritise.

All the students have been involved in the project through DT lessons, and their work can also be accredited towards City amp; Guilds qualifications.

A recent addition to the business has been the repairing and revamping of lost, stolen and unwanted bicycles donated by the local police.

Headteacher Maxine Pittaway says pupils have repaired more than 100 bicycles as part of the school's key stage 3 curriculum, often combining parts from two broken bikes to make one "new" one. The students then use the bikes themselves or sell them.

Project leader's tips

- Start in a small way and build the project up

- Keep it small and manageable initially and only advertise it internally

- Involve staff as well as pupils.

Ms Pittaway says: "Embrace your community because it opens doors and brings a lot of good things to you; not only financial support but support in the running of the school, too."

Does it work?

In one year alone more than 50 large pieces of furniture have been recycled, and 100 bikes have been repaired.

In addition, 27 students have received a City amp; Guilds Certificate, and 17 a diploma at level 1.

All the money made is reinvested into the school. This year, money from the project, and community fundraising, has helped the school invest in a hydra pool.

The project

Started: 2001

Leader: Maxine Pittaway, headteacher

The school

Name: St Christopher's

Location: Wrexham, Wales

Number of pupils: 223

Age range: 6-19

Intake: St Christopher's is a day special school educating pupils with a variety of special educational needs. It opened on its present site in April 2001

Estyn overall rating: Good (2008).

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