Glasgow pupils learn the ropes in sailing scheme

15th May 2015 at 01:00
Tea magnate's legacy used to help young people make waves

The legacy of Glasgow-born entrepreneur Sir Thomas Lipton can be found in kitchen cupboards across the world. But the Victorian founder of a tea empire is now making an impact of a different kind on the lives of primary pupils in the city.

A pioneering scheme, inspired by Sir Thomas' love of sailing, is giving hundreds of pupils the chance to explore career opportunities available on the open seas.

The Buoyed Up project promotes school visits from inspiring speakers and gives pupils the opportunity to gain five days of practical sailing experience under professional tuition.

So far, about 100 children from Glasgow schools have taken part in the scheme, which celebrates Sir Thomas' life and success in the tea trade. Organisers hope to expand the initiative to schools across the country in the coming years.

Delivered by the Sir Thomas Lipton Foundation, the programme is designed to raise the aspirations and confidence of young people in areas with high levels of unemployment.

Buoyed Up was launched in Australia in 2012. Last year, Saracen Primary School in Possilpark, Glasgow, became the first UK school to benefit from the project. Chirnsyde Primary and St Monica's Primary soon followed.

Jackie MacIver, headteacher of Chirnsyde Primary School, said that participating in the scheme had been "excellent" for her pupils. Many young people at her school would not have perceived sailing as being for someone of their background, she explained, so the opportunity had been hugely beneficial. The project also enabled pupils to mix with peers from other schools in Glasgow, she added.

Open water, open opportunities

Since Christmas, Chirnsyde's P6 pupils have learned about Sir Thomas' life and the Victorian era. They have also created small sails from fabric, which will eventually be joined to form a quilt. The children will share what they have discovered with the rest of the school in an assembly.

Pupils visited City of Glasgow College as part of an introduction to the world of work. "The children came back so enthusiastic because they did not realise the range of careers available in this field," Ms MacIver said. "I think the girls thought it was quite a male-dominated field."

This week, the pupils finally took to the water. "Our hope is that all the children will gain a level 1 certificate in yachting, and some may get a level 2," Ms MacIver said.

City of Glasgow student Andrew Henderson was among a group of students on hand to help the children during their visit to the college. He plans to take up a role at ship management company Northern Marine Management when he finishes his college course this summer.

"Marine engineering is a growing industry with lots of opportunities, Mr Henderson said. "If only one person from the school groups decides to go into the merchant navy, the Buoyed Up event will have been a success."

The P6 pupils took part in workshops and demonstrations on subjects including knot-tying and safety at City of Glasgow's Riverside campus, and even used a simulator to steer a boat through New York's Hudson Bay.

"Lipton was kind of a Richard Branson of his time, being known to kings, queens and presidents," said Laurence Brady, founder of the Sir Thomas Lipton Foundation. "He had remarkable flair and showmanship, and was always gracious in defeat as a competitive sailor.

"His story and experiences are uplifting and hopefully serve to provide inspiration to young people, especially those living in areas with fewer opportunities."

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