'It was absolutely fantastic to meet pupils from Brandles School making a difference in the North Herts community' writes Comet reporter Martin Elvery

PUBLISHED: 16:30 01 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:38 01 November 2017

The boys with staff from the neo-natal ward which they were raising cash for. Picture: Martin Elvery

The boys with staff from the neo-natal ward which they were raising cash for. Picture: Martin Elvery

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I had the pleasure of being invited along to Stevenage's Lister Hospital on to meet the bubbly and enterprising pupils from a school for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties taking part in their amazing charity project.

Some of the children from Brandles School in Baldock have been moved from mainstream schools because they have mental health or behavioural problems, or conditions such as autism and ADHD.

Understandably the traditional classroom setting doesn’t always work for them, so the school – in partnership with a community enterprise company called Education Learning Skills & Achievement – has arranged a series of projects to get them out and about talking to people and getting involved in good causes.

When I arrive at the reception area I am greeted by a group of excited looking boys dressed in white cycling campaign T-shirts, taking part in a charity cycle challenge to raise money for the neo-natal ward at the Lister.

They are gathered around an exercise bike as one of their teammates peddles away frantically, and the others try to work out how far and fast he has cycled.

Brandles School students taking a quick break between cycles. Picture: Martin ElveryBrandles School students taking a quick break between cycles. Picture: Martin Elvery

They have also set up a yummy cake stall and there are banners adorned with the logo of the East and North Herts Hospitals Charity through which the donations will be collected.

Although initially a little shy, the boys are quickly surrounding me asking me questions and are keen to talk about what they are doing – they also rightly want to make sure I have donated some money to their charity boxes which they wave at me enthusiastically.

Alfie, 13, told me: “I’ve had a great time and have been enjoying making cakes and raising money for charity.

“We’ve handed out a lot of notices and there have been lots of people coming through the entrance.”

Chatting to patients and visitors, the boys showed a knack of communicating with the public. Picture: Martin ElveryChatting to patients and visitors, the boys showed a knack of communicating with the public. Picture: Martin Elvery

Gary Wiggins, the school’s engagement support worker, said: “They’ve been so excited about doing this. You can tell how they’ve adapted to it and they’ve worked so well as a group.

“They really want to be involved in it.”

The projects help the pupils develop vital social and communication skills and the school uses them to count towards pupils’ qualifications.

The aim is to get the children ready for the working world.

Headteacher David Pearce showing his pedal power. Picture: Martin ElveryHeadteacher David Pearce showing his pedal power. Picture: Martin Elvery

This project is just one the school has in the pipeline. Others include helping build a community garden at Westmill Community Centre in Hitchin and making planters at Tapps Garden Centre in Baldock.

The school’s pastoral lead, Janet Stone, tells me: “A lot of our boys find school difficult but they are learning so much being out here. They really buy into it and they are doing really well.

“They’ve got to go out to work eventually and this is one of the nicest ways to introduce them to it.”

Brandles has 50 male students and 25 staff. Because it’s a small school it has limited funding, but it’s obvious from talking to the pupils and staff that there is some fantastic work going on here.

Reporter Martin Elvery has a go on the bike... for about a minute.Reporter Martin Elvery has a go on the bike... for about a minute.

The school says on its website it wants all of its students to flourish and its aim is to bring out the best in them.

If today is anything to go by, this is certainly happening.

It doesn’t take long for the boys to persuade me to have a go on the bike and before long they are chatting to passers by and persuading them to put a few coins in their charity boxes.

This is a great example of an imaginative approach to education and a recognition that a one-size-fits all approach doesn’t work.

Thank you to the boys of Brandles for such a great happy morning and for showing us that we don’t all have to be the same – or be educated the same way – to be valuable members of society.

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