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Students build on their potential

Not every class is given the chance to construct its own workshed, which is why one group jumped at the chance. Henry Hepburn reports

Not every class is given the chance to construct its own workshed, which is why one group jumped at the chance. Henry Hepburn reports

How do you make students value their classroom? Tain Royal Academy thinks it has the answer - get them to build it.

S3 and S4 construction students used to have nowhere to practise the skills their course demanded; they would be scattered all round the school.

When yellow paint was spilled on to a blue corridor - drawing the janitor's ire - it was the catalyst to do something. With the help of teacher Tommy Agnew and some industry contacts, the students decided to build a workshed.

Over six months, through some of the worst weather the Highlands could fling at them, they planned, designed and constructed it.

Their efforts produced not just a place to work - whose roomy 60 square metre proportions make "workshed" seem something of a misnomer - but evidence they could thrive in the real world.

"There's not enough problem-solving out there," observed Mr Agnew, who was a carpenter before entering teaching. He knows the frustration within the industry that school-leavers often lack the initiative and ingenuity employers seek.

"The project gave the pupils a realistic insight into conditions they would encounter in day-to-day working on a construction site," Mr Agnew said.

"It's not a case of them just doing what they're told - they're actually learning how to get round problems that come up."

Industry enthusiasm for the project was clear from companies' willingness to donate most of the materials needed, with Scottish and Southern Energy particularly generous.

Students glow with pride when interviewed beside their creation, with its permanence a source of particular satisfaction.

S4 Sean Smith says: "It'll be something good to look back on and say, 'We built that - and it's still standing'."

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