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 A Dreghorn school's trailblazing coffee shop project is encouraging pupils to enjoy learning

Posted on 11 Dec 2023


A fledgling barista project is helping to bring disengaged secondary school pupils back to education.

Pupils at Greenwood Academy, in Dreghorn near Irvine, are being given the opportunity to learn some barista coffee-making skills while also getting additional one-to-one study support through The Mount initiative.

The beauty of the project is that it is held in Townend Youth and Community Centre rather than the school, meaning young people living with a range of challenges including anxiety and a lack of confidence feel more relaxed and open to learning.

One pupil who gets regular extra support in Maths and English with a teacher at the community centre said: “I have found it really helpful because I suffer from bad anxiety and panic attacks.

“I am learning in a safe and comforting environment rather than one that – to me – is scary and overwhelming. I have been coming to The Mount for a few weeks and it helps me a lot. I get peace and quiet, and I don’t get panic attacks.

“I want to work with animals and would like to open an animal sanctuary, and I need Higher Maths and English to be able to do this. My Maths and English are coming on great, and I am also going out more outside of school than I was before.”

The Mount initiative, which takes its name from the school’s address on Corsehill Mount Road, is also used by the Academy’s GEM (Greenwood Events Management) students. This is a group of senior students who are learning coffee-making as a subject as they work towards a Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) in Barista Skills.

The Mount also focuses on supporting:

  • Pupils on part-time timetables who would benefit from community-based support
  • Young people looking for volunteering opportunities
  • Parents looking for support with literacy and numeracy qualifications and
  • Parents looking for support from community services.

The spark for the project came from Community Learning and Development Worker Craig McLellan and Carrie Boax, who is the school’s Principal of Guidance.

Craig acknowledged that the centre was quiet during the day and that there was a need for a community cafe in the village.

A six-week summer pilot project was set up, with the GEM pupils, which attracted parents and carers into Townend for a coffee and also inspired other ideas for development, including the possibility of introducing English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) sessions.

Provost Anthea Dickson visited the project recently, and said: “This initiative is very impressive. We need to offer young people the chance to learn a range of practical skills – not just academic subjects - that give them a sense of worth and enjoyment.

“The IT room, coffee shop and additional learning will help our young people to thrive, whatever their ambitions are, and will lift their self-esteem.”

The initiative was launched recently during National Youth Work Week, shining a light on its core principles of community development and youth work.

Headteacher Katy Hegarty said: “We are very proud of this project, which has many benefits for our pupils and also helps us to engage with parents, carers and the wider community.

“It is all about engaging with young people outside of the school environment and helping them to thrive.”

Partner organisations involved include: Dreghorn Community Association, which runs Townend; benefits, housing and debt charity, CHAP – which is offering workshops to non-attenders; the North Ayrshire Multiply team, which helps adults improve their numeracy skills, and Dreghorn Community Fire Station.

Councillor Shaun Macaulay, Cabinet Member for Education, added: “I would like to congratulate everyone involved in this programme, which offers our young people a chance to learn outside of the classroom.

“They are learning about employability, community and teamwork – which will all stand them in good stead.”

The café is not open to the public yet – but please keep up with the Academy and the Council’s social media channels for updates.