STUDENTS are to build a timber house in their school’s grounds as part of an ambitious scheme to improve practical skills and boost self-esteem.
The Burlington Danes Academy pupils are due to start The Schoolhouse Project in September, pending planning permission, and will be filmed for a documentary series.
The once struggling White City secondary has enjoyed a dramatic turnaround in recent years, with soaring results and their principal honoured in the Queen’s New Year Honours.
Dame Sally Coates, who proposed the idea, said: “This is a really unusual thing for us to do because, although we do get involved in lots of projects, this is so different and so original. I’m so excited by it.”
The ARK academy has teamed up with architect Roderick James for the project, who told students: “What we want to do is give you the confidence and enthusiasm to realise that you can do things which are substantially bigger than you probably thought you could.”
The vocational programme will give 20 students the opportunity to learn about carpentry, plumbing, roofing, insulation and sustainability, among other key elements of the building trade.
Student Ruth Livingstone, 17, said: “The media sometimes say young people are just into crime and we’ve got nothing in the future, but if we all work together we can show the community that we’re actually good and we’ve got something to do looking forward in life.”
The finished house will be used for short-term boarding where teachers and students can enjoy evenings of discussion, music performances and other extra-curricular activities. It will also be available to entertain people from the community, helping develop students’ hospitality and conversational skills.
Craig Ambrose, 14, said: “I think this will help me with my behaviour as well. I like practical and hands-on stuff.”
Teachers hope the project will lead to apprenticeships and overseas work for some of the students involved.
Having received sponsorship from various companies, the academy is now looking to recruit retired builders from the White City area to help with the project.
Mr James added: “We want to enable people to get the self-esteem, the self-confidence and also the sheer excitement of having done something for themselves.”