Meadows Special School get ?20,000 horticultural boost

A Special school will build a horticultural centre to boost the job prospects of their students and bring the community together.

Meadows Special School, in Leek, was one of eleven winners in the Community Cash Awards, run by The Sentinel and the Big Lottery Fund.

It scooped ?20,000 to construct the centre, which will open in spring next year.

More than 80 organisations from across North Staffordshire and South Cheshire applied for the funding, with a readers’ vote to decide which projects received financial support from a shortlist of 18.

Plans are being drawn up for the facility, which will deliver sensory experiences and teach the pupils, aged 11 to 19, vocational skills.

Previously just aimed at sixth form students, the younger pupils will now be able to sell produce from the centre door to door or at local markets.

The centre will contain two poly tunnels, a series of raised beds and an outdoor classroom, all with disabled access.

Headteacher Chris Best, aged 37, of Sneyd Green, said: “There are barriers in the system which make it difficult for our young people. This is our way of removing one of those barriers.

“We’re not here to just look after people, we want to give people the chance to get a job once they leave school.

“It’s also a recognition of the area the school’s in, there’s a lot of rural land in Leek.

“There are also a lot of estates and bungalows where there’s maintenance to be done, and a good proportion of our students have the skills and interest to help out.”

Mr Best said the initiative will look to tackle the issue of youth unemployment head on.

“It’s a big issue,” he said. “This is something we can proactively do that will make a difference.

“The local authorities are certainly behind what we’re trying to do. It could create a pathway into jobs in the community.”

Meadows caters for 114 students with a range of mental and physical disabilities.

Sixth form teacher David Wheuell, aged 52, of Macclesfield, added: “We don’t want to be insular and it to be all about ourselves. We want to engage the community in this and make it a community hub.

“There’s a lot of expertise in Leek and many locals are up to speed with horticulture. We’re looking to be a force for bringing the community together.

“We cannot wait for the spring, it’s going to be fantastic.”

The sixth form students are equally as excited.

Sam Holdcroft, aged 16, of Kidsgrove, said: “It’s an opportunity. It’s about getting stuck in and getting your hands dirty.

“I like all kinds of horticulture, but planting is my preferred activity. I like watching things grow. These are exciting times for us.”

Daniel Bostock, aged 16, of Halmerend, added: “I like to do a lot of gardening at home as well.

“The funding has helped what we’re trying to do so much.”

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