Skip links

Earthworks and Watling View School in one inspiring evening!

Soroptimist Barbara Saunders Earthworks Steve Pike Watling View Andy Scott Soroptimist Debbie Tankard
Soroptimist Barbara Saunders Earthworks Steve Pike Watling View Andy Scott Soroptimist Debbie Tankard

On Monday 27 Jan we heard from Steve Pike, Joint Project Leader Earthworks St Albans, the local charity that provides “Horticultural training for those with learning disabilities” and also from Andy Scott, Head of Watling View School St Albans , the special school for pupils with a wide range of complex and profound learning difficulties.

In the above photo l to r are Barbara Saunders, Steve Pike, Andy Scott and Debbie Tankard. Barbara and Debbie are in the Club’s Learning Opportunities Team – the group that arranged the event for the Club.

Steve Pike has worked for Earthworks for 15 years following a stint volunteering there while he was a student in Hatfield. The Club has helped this worthwhile charity over many years. Steve spoke passionately about Earthworks – The Natural Place to Grow having shown a short film made by the Earthworkers who benefit from the environment which nurtures people with learning disabilities. Earthworks has a lovely garden in Hixberry Lane and was established under the Care in the Community Act in 1995; 2020 is its 25th Anniversary year. Steve stressed that its doors are always open and they provide, meaningful, work-based learning and nature based activities with up to 60 placements a week. 45 individuals are currently supported (up to 12 a day) with core funding coming from Herts CC. Fundraising is necessary to buy equipment and build facilities. There are 3 key elements to the provision meaningful activities, natural environment and a social context. They are a small team and rely heavily on volunteers especially as Trustees to provide governance. A new project is Earthworks on Wheels – a Community project piloted last summer and providing basic gardening for vulnerable people in the community. This is fulfilling for the Earthworkers, and enhances their experience. Impact assessment is very important to justify funding and this year they have introduced Bee Happy – bee-keeping, are upgrading the flooring in the marquee and introducing new toilets. Donations of gardening gloves would also be valued. Diary Dates to note : 16 May – Open Garden, 25th Anniversary Event in July, Summer Fayre – 5 September and Xmas Fayre – 28 November.

Debbie introduced Andy, acting Head Teacher from Watling View – A very Special School which the Club has supported financially and by assisting on the market stall where for the past few years young people from the school sell things they have made and engage with the local community. He spoke of the importance of Communication, developing life skills and independence being at the heart of what the school (30% of whom are girls) provides. They seek to ensure that young people have a voice and that requires communication skills and signage. Specialist techniques are required to help with emotional regulation and behavioural control internally and externally, as it is an open-facing school. The students have Educational Health Care Plans and there is a strong focus on extra curricular activities such as visits to Harry Potter, England football playing at Wembley, and Wimbledon. These support themed activities in school. Work experience in horticulture is undertaken at Digswell, horse riding is available and the school benefits from a hydrotherapy pool with a swimming teacher for pupils twice a week. Some go to the local leisure centre for a weekly swim. Standalone events such as fishing, acting and performing, visits to Wesley’s café in Harpenden and helping in the school café all add to students’ life-skills. Travel on trains and buses is also encouraged. The school looks to local partners to signpost opportunities and help with fundraising e.g Waitrose tokens, bag packing in M&S, the market stall and Parent-led events. Among the projects they need funds for are: general renovation of the buildings, provision of an emotional regulatory room, specialist equipment and construction of a studio flat and café to support the development of individual living skills. The hydro-therapy pool also needs upgrading and a new boiler. Soroptimist’s practical help and financial support is always appreciated.

Steve’s presentation about Earthworks and Andy’s presentation about Watling View School are both jam-packed with information and great photos so please take a break, grab yourself a coffee and click here to download and read both excellent presentations: Earthworks Talk Jan 2020, Watling View School Jan 2020

The work of both of these charities is inspiring in the innovative ways that they support individuals with disabilities to reach their full potential. Our Club is proud to be a supporter of these two organisations and will look at ways to continue our relationship in the future.