School at heart of estate life
Published at 11:06, Thursday, 29 March 2012
SCHOOLS are at the heart of most communities – but few can claim to serve those around them more so than St Gregory and St Patrick’s Catholic Community School, Whitehaven.
Nestled in the Mirehouse area of the town, the school – rated “outstanding” by Ofsted – has become a hub of the community and doesn’t intend to stop there, with plans to develop into a focal point serving the entire needs of the area.
Leading the way in this goal is the school’s not-for-profit enterprise Chill Out and its community centre.
It has quickly become a centre providing a host of services for local people and the school offering the likes of affordable child care for working parents, breakfast, after-school and holiday clubs, conference and meeting facilities, and space for local clubs and fitness classes.
Used by local dance and drama groups, the centre makes a real impact in the local community, according to headteacher Anthony Dwyer.
“This is such a dynamic high-quality space available for people in this area and a lot of people are getting so much use from the services we are offering,” he said. “The children’s centre is growing every day and it is providing a fantastic service for the families of this area.
“It is run and funded in conjunction with the Howgill Family Centre, based in Whitehaven, and Cumbria County Council.
“We also run an extremely popular shop and food business for the community, where people can buy groceries and meals. After Easter it will open six days a week.
“We have plans to expand these range of services in the near future becoming a real hub of the community.”
Anthony said he also hopes to roll out new services including meals on wheels in the surrounding area, buffet ordering and take-away deli service.
In line with these new developments he also hopes to extend the current building.
“This site has become so much more than a school, it has become a lifeline for people in the community and a link for them both socially and emotionally,” he added. “Every Friday we hold a community lunch where local residents can come in and have a two-course meal.
“We are developing a classroom and dining area in the school which will be used as a cooking school for children aged three to seven with their parents and the wider community.
“It’s about offering that space and facility for people to spend time together socially. And because it’s a not-for-profit registered charity, the school benefits financially from the scheme, which in turn benefits parents and pupils.”
The drive to serve the community is at the heart of the school’s ethos and traditions as a Catholic community school which celebrates its links with Belmont Abbey and its parish.
“It is fundamental to our mission as a Catholic school that we serve and support the community and those in need,” Mr Dwyer said. “We are developing new traditions and customs of fellowship to create those social links and helps in the needs of others around us.
“In times like these of great austerity, we are offering a hand to the elderly and those in need of a little extra help.”
Anthony, who has been at the school for 22 years and as headteacher for 12 years, said new jobs would be created for local people through the projects at Chill Out and the community centre.
“We are helping to change lives through what we’re offering here – it’s life changing and lifestyle changing.
“When it comes to the Government’s Big Society, we are already meeting those requirements through our work here.
“I really want the business to grow as a company in the future. It’s touching the lives of so many people. But there’s no way we could have done this without the support of Copeland council, WREN and Copeland Homes.”
From Easter the community centre shop will be open from 8am-6pm Monday to Thursday, 8am-4pm Friday and 9am-1pm Saturday.
Published by http://www.cumberlandnews.co.uk