Kilmodan Primary School’s Market Garden and Tearoom project has been nominated for the award for Employability Across Learning Award. The text of the nominated reads as follows:
[Colintraive and Glendaruel is] a tiny community; the clachan that the school is in no longer has a shop, pub or cafe after recent closures. We lack opportunities to come together to meet which is a problem, especially with an aging population.
The idea for a tearoom arose organically from the pupil’s success in growing plants in their polytunnel. For the last three years they have been holding plant sales in the summer term, selling produce, young plants and hanging baskets that they have raised from seed. As well as tending the sales tables and showing visitors round the polytunnel, the pupils made cakes to sell alongside teas to add to profits. These events were well attended by parents and the wider community. Last year was decided to hold a winter tea room in aid of funds to help the Pakistan floods, again this was well attended and enjoyed by the children, and it was decided to set up a monthly event, in aid of specific school projects.
From these small beginnings, the tearoom has taken off and now sells produce from local farmers too; the profits are shared between the school and the producer. The children make crafts, greetings cards and potted cuttings to sell at the same time.
Cakes are made by the children who also serve the tea and coffee. But a micro business is being run behind the scenes; pupils are undertaking tasks such as marketing, staff management and rotas, handling money, setting prices and customer service, in line with their ages and abilities. Skills involved include maths, enterprise, commerce, retail and of course baking, but in a wider sense they are developing resilience, cooperation, politeness; all aligned to the Curriculum for Excellence core values.
We are a small school, but everyone takes part. The younger children sell the crafts, serve the cakes and count the money; the older children (P6 and 7) take on the role of marketing, management and investment. They have already decided to invest from their profits in new crockery and cake stands so it is really giving them an idea of how a business grows by ploughing money back in. Cards and crafts are now sent to be on sale every day in Colintraive’s post office; again with a desire to grow the business.
The older children hold meetings to plan each event, and discuss any problems or ideas for improvement afterwards. The teachers also bring in examples thrown up by the tearoom in subjects such as Maths, English, Art, Home Economics; it is a handy shared experience which makes the abstract real and the staff are keen to discuss what skills have been learnt after each event and relate them to the workplace. From the feedback the school has had from parents, it is clear that they think it is a worthwhile project and my own son, who is in P7, seems to have learnt more from the tearooms than any other project; hearing him talk of profits and overheads can be unnerving but it illustrates his enthusiasm and understanding. It is lovely for parents and the wider community to be able to witness and literally share in an ongoing school project too.
From the outset it was important to be a business with a conscience and a purpose beyond the financial; as well as fundraising for charity, the pupils wanted to provide a service to the community rather than just take their money. They have been delighted to form a relationship with Befrienders Dunoon, a local charity that takes out elderly people who might otherwise be housebound or lonely. Eight to ten people are brought to every tea room in a minibus, and the children have become fond of their visitors. It is a symbiotic relationship; one elderly lady came in to talk to the school about their Africa project, having been raised there and the children have performed songs and poems at each end of term tearoom.
The children have seen real results from their enterprise; the first year, starting in winter, netted over £600, this school year, they’ve raised £900 so far. They have used the money to attend a Stramash outdoors activity week before school broke up, including a night under canvas, costing £2200 and paid for in large part by the tearoom profits. This was matched funded by the local Wind Farm Trust in recognition of the children’s achievement. The Parent Council, have applauded their efforts. In such a tiny school itis often difficult to fund more expensive projects.
In terms of employability, the scheme could not have been designed better to give pupils a taste of the types of skills needed in the work place, particularly in a rural area. This part of Argyll is a centre for tourism, needs enterprising business start ups, especially in the hospitality industries. In the wider country, retail sales, and seeing how a product can go from seed to shop is a useful illustration, especially as many of our children come from farming families, so may be used to the production but not the end sales. We are an aging population too so working with the elderly is a real possibility for our pupils, it is nice to see them interacting with some quite vulnerable members of the community.
The provision of a tearoom has made a huge difference to this community; what the children have managed to do is a great lesson to those interested in development; they have seen a gap in the market and designed a product/service to suit that gap. They have adapted and grown to suit market conditions and learnt a huge amount in the process almost without noticing. As for partners, working with both local producers, a charity and consumers more than gives the experience that this award category suggests.
Well done Kilmodan PS, an example to us all!