East Grinstead Courier and Observer

By Sam Satchell

FOR most teenagers a work placement involves shifting at their local music store, a greengrocers or their parents’ business .

But a group of hardworking students at Michael Hall School took a more hands-on approach to their three-week programme by constructing an outdoor learning centre
Using a range of skills learnt at the school in Forest Row, which puts an emphasis on practical learning, they built the skeleton of the eco-friendly timber framed building, which will be completed in three phases.

They also created two eco toilets, converted a shed into a shower room and installed new monkey bars and climbing equipment for the younger students.

Metalwork and craft teacher Michael Cassels said: “All our Year 9s do the three-week work experience project, but this is one of the most ambitious projects we have done. I thought we had bitten off a bit more than we could chew with this, but they have completely exceeded my expectations.

“To get this far in the first phase is amazing. By next year they will be able to start work on the walls, the windows, the flooring and other parts of the interior.”

In previous years, work experience students have helped to create sheds, shelters, notice boards, car parking spaces and more, having been taught basic building and woodwork techniques.

The school applied for planning permission to construct the outdoor classroom 12 months ago and the project involving about 20 students got under way in mid-May.

Mr Cassels said: “It’s a proper working day. The timetable freezes for the three weeks to allow them to do this. We had some really switched on guys working on the building, some of whom already had experience of building, while some others worked in the kitchen to prepare lunch every day.

“We’re not just building something to knock it down again. It’s part of our school development and it’s been a really good lesson for them. They can take pride from this, as well as valuable life skills.”

Eventually, it is hoped the classroom will be open to visitors, and a school from Germany is already booked in to see the work-in-progress this autumn.

The students will start work on the walls, windows, flooring and the rest of the interior next year and, when complete, the space will be used to teach lessons such as craft activities, green wood working, and pottery. The scaffolding and timber were both supplied by local businesses.