Teens brush up on decorating skills to help ASN children

30th January 2015 at 00:00
New project empowers students to revamp cash-strapped school

Kelbourne Park School is showing its age. After a century of wear and tear, and with education budgets seriously stretched, the Glasgow primary for children with additional support needs is in need of significant repair.

On the other side of the city, disaffected teenagers enrolled on the council's Enhanced Vocational Inclusion Programme (Evip) are crying out for projects that will help them to re-engage with education.

Now, in a perhaps unlikely partnership led by Glasgow Clyde College, eight 15-year-olds have been drafted in to renovate and decorate the school, gaining valuable work experience into the bargain.

The project has already proved transformational for both parties and plans are afoot to roll it out across the city.

The students, who are taking an Evip construction course at Glasgow Clyde, visit the school every week and have taken on all kinds of tasks, from repainting an outdoor classroom and repairing gutters to re-roofing the children's Wendy house. The work began in the autumn term, and will continue over the coming months until the students complete their Skills for Work programme in June.

Lecturer George Hill said the primary pupils' spirit had made an impression on his students and sparked a real enthusiasm for the project, which is supported by a mentor from Evip and a pound;1,000 grant.

"Life had been a battle" for most of the young people who were participating, Mr Hill said, and working at the school had helped them to focus. He had already seen behavioural changes among the students, who felt they were trusted and treated like adults by school and college staff alike, he added.

"Most of the guys are from the Maryhill and Ruchill area themselves, so it's been truly heart-warming to see the way they have enthusiastically embraced this community project to help improve facilities for the kids at the school," he explained. "They are very keen to keep going. They pester us to go, and when they are there they pester us to [let them] stay. The time at the school is a happy time for them, and for us, too."

In addition to developing vocational skills, the group also spends time planning and organising the project. "They now work together very well as a team and are gaining many other important employability skills," Mr Hill added.

Kelbourne headteacher Andrea MacBeath couldn't believe her luck when the volunteering project was proposed. "The school is 100 years old," she said. "It is like the Forth Road Bridge: when you have finished painting it, you have to start again at the beginning. There are always things to do."

Ms MacBeath admitted that she initially had some concerns about letting the teenagers loose around the school with tools, but she decided to place her trust in the training they had been given by the college.

"The fact that they all have different skills is brilliant. A couple are into joinery, another prefers plumbing and there are painters and decorators," she said. "I have already asked if they can stay another year."

And given how squeezed council budgets are, she is certain other schools would be keen to receive similar support. "I am sure every headteacher across the city in the current financial climate would be glad to have the help," she added.

Plans are being drawn up for two other groups of college students to embark on similar volunteering schemes. "This is definitely something I want to expand," Mr Hill said.

And Glasgow City Council is equally keen to see cooperation between institutions thrive. Director of education Maureen McKenna said the local authority would continue to look for new joint ventures.

"This is an excellent opportunity for our young people to contribute to communities and further develop their college skills in a simulated work environment," she added.

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