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Garden project aims to reduce numbers of NEETs

Green-fingered teenagers have been landscape gardening as part of a new initiative to encourage 14-16 year olds to stay on in education or find employment once they leave school.

Sunderland College has launched The Real Project which aims to help young people gain real-life learning experiences whilst studying for vocational qualifications as part of their school day.

Taking place at the college’s Hylton Campus, supported by college staff and construction students, over 50 teenagers are transforming a previously unused area of the college into a café garden.

Martin Scott, curriculum leader at Sunderland College has been overseeing The Real Project. He said: “The Real Project is a fantastic way for students who are still at school to learn new skills and think about the options open to them once they leave.

“By providing students with these positive experiences before they leave school we hope to reduce the numbers of young people who ultimately end up not in education, employment or training.”

Sunderland College is the first college in the region to provide vocational qualifications for students still in compulsory education.

The college works with partner schools in Sunderland, Durham, South Tyneside and Gateshead to take disengaged students out of the classroom for few hours a week.

As part of the renovation, students have been having a go at bricklaying, surveying, landscaping, joinery and horticulture.

Students from schools across Sunderland have been taking part including Reece Smith, 15, and a pupil from Thornhill School. Reece said: “I’ve really enjoyed getting involved in the renovation of the garden, I’ve learnt so much and it’s taught me a lot about what I can do once I leave school.

“I’ve gained a qualification in Level 1 Building Craft which will be really useful to me when I start looking for a job or an apprenticeship.”

As well as the renovation of the garden, students can get involved in painting and decorating, hair and beauty and catering courses.

Martin said: “Through The Real Project students can find out what it is that they really want to do and, by gaining vocational experience and qualifications, become more employable as a result.

“So far the garden has taken five weeks to renovate and throughout the project I’ve been really impressed with the students’ attitude and willingness to learn something new.”

Pupils from schools in Gateshead, South Tyneside, Durham and Sunderland are welcome to take part but must be referred by their school.

Martin said: “We’re working with partner schools and businesses to try and make a real positive impact on the futures of young people here in the North East.

“We’re always looking for local businesses and organisations to get involved with sponsorship and materials or even some industry expertise so if any are interested in taking part I urge them to contact me.”

To find out more information visit www.sunderlandcollege.ac.uk/therealproject or call Martin Scott on 0191 511 6708.

Photo caption: Reece Smith (L) is peer mentored by Corey Haggath (R), a 3rd year joinery student.



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