Donation sparks school’s decade of growth

A DEVON school building an ever-growing reputation for vocational education can trace its decade-long development to a six-figure sum donated by the children’s charity of rugby.

Wooden Spoon Devon provided £100,000 to Torquay’s Combe Pafford Business and Enterprise School in 2007 to allow headteacher Mike Lock and his staff to achieve their dream of building a business and enterprise centre where pupils could undertake invaluable vocational training alongside their academic programmes.

The money helped the school, which caters for children with moderate learning difficulties, reach the project’s £400,000 target and the resulting new facility provided a purpose-built unit kitted out with areas dedicated to the teaching of motor vehicle, construction and retail sector skills.

But while the initial impact of the Wooden Spoon region’s assistance was obvious, the project’s positive effects continue to be felt ten years later.

Word about Combe Pafford’s new centre spread throughout the country and other schools began to approach Mike to buy time at the facility for their own pupils.

This income, combined with new funding streams made available thanks to the original project’s success, allowed the school to open a second unit catering for construction skills complete with working bathrooms, electrical stands and tiling, decorating and bricklaying areas. The original centre was dedicated to motor vehicle skills.

Fast forward to 2017 and the transformation continues apace. Sitting to one side of the main school are a line of modern vocational centres, with work on a fifth unit currently underway.

Each facility is designed to provide a realistic working environment, with the construction and motor units joined by the working Yellow Frog cafe, an animal care centre housing lizards, snakes and tropical fish and a greenhouse with 40 outdoor produce beds, the fruits of which are sold at Totnes market to raise income for overseas trips for the children.

A sixth form has also been introduced and pupils split their weeks with two days at the vocational centre, two days doing academic work and a further two undertaking work experience with partner employers including Sainsbury’s, National Tyres, Morgan Sindall Construction, Shaldon Animal Trust and the Duchy Hotel Group.

This development has proven to be so successful that some of the partner companies are seeking more work placement students than the school is able to supply.

Given Wood Spoon Devon’s intrinsic role in the school’s transformation, it is little surprise that Mike Lock has become a fervent fan of the children’s charity of rugby and can frequently be found spreading the word about its work.

Combe Pafford’s motto – “Believe, achieve, succeed” – is a fitting description of the school’s last decade and Wooden Spoon Devon is proud to have played a part in its journey.

To see other projects funded through the generosity and hard work of Wooden Spoon’s regions, read the latest issue of Spoonews by clicking here.