Jonathan Almond, Jeremy Knight, David Murfin, Matthew Noone and Micky Wilson started out volunteering to help maintain and improve the Eco Centre site through a range of activities such as paving and stonework, garden construction and maintenance, woodland management, tools maintenance and other projects. The group worked each Wednesday with one of the skilled and experienced Adult Community Education tutors.
In 2013 the group started on a practical outdoor qualification, the ABC Entry Level 3 Award in Practical Countryside Skills, while continuing to carry out practical tasks around the Eco Centre grounds. The qualification suited to the abilities of the learners, has wide range of different units that could be chosen and actively encourages the use of diverse and non-written methods of assessing learners.
Working with Tutors Jan Forrester, Sally Hodgson, Amanda James, Trevor Wragg and Gordon Wilton, each member of the group achieved well over the minimum number of credits required to get the Award, completing units such as:
- Developing skills for using & maintaining garden tools
- Edge & repair a footpath
- Lay slabs
- Sow seed indoors in containers
- Sow seed outdoors in drills
- Control weeds in a planted area
- Construct a composter
These units enabled the learners to create new footpaths and a flight of steps to the upper garden, plan and plant up a range of raised beds with a ‘Tour de France’ theme, construct a new compost area, sharpen and mend the Eco Centre stock of tools and generally keep the grounds looking tidy and weed free.
The course was so successful that in 2015-16 the learner group went on to tackle the ABC Entry Level 3 Certificate in Practical Countryside Skills, which required them to achieve several more units. Once again they all achieved many more than the minimum number required to get the Certificate.
The delivery of the qualification impressed the ABC External Verifier who visited the Eco Centre in October 2015 to check on the assessment and internal verification of the course. In his report he said "The facilities available for teaching and learning are of the highest standard. The grounds and work areas surrounding the building provide excellent opportunities for practical tasks" and then went on to say that the course is delivered by a "well-qualified and experienced academic team" who "provide the learners with a range of worksheets which enable the learners, many of whom have learning difficulties, to easily demonstrate competence."
In November, Jonathan, Jeremy, David, Matthew and Micky were presented with their new Certificates on the same day as they finished a decorative paved panel of their own design, part of an ongoing project to demonstrate different paving styles and techniques. Our Programme Development Worker Nikki Wright said "We owe this group so much. They have worked tirelessly over the last few years carrying out vital maintenance and construction projects to develop the Eco Centre grounds. It is fantastic that they have now achieved two qualifications as a result and are keen to continue this year. We wish them the very best and look forward to presenting them with their Diploma in Practical Countryside Skills in 2016."