Maidenhead specialist school to launch shop in High Street

Shay Bottomley

A specialist school is preparing to launch a new store in Maidenhead providing students with a safe environment to gain retail experience.

Beech Lodge School, based in Stubbings, is setting up ‘Apprenticeshop’ at the former Poundland site on the High Street where pupils will gain transferable skills to prepare them for the world of work.

Due to open in November after the half-term break, furniture for sale will be donated from the Shanly Group’s showrooms, with all proceeds going to local charities via the Shanly Foundation.

Furthermore, key workers, NHS staff, people on universal credit and students will be offered a 25 per cent discount at the checkouts. Adults will be on hand to help the students as and when required.

It is hoped that the store will provide key retail experience for the school’s students, many of whom have restricted coping skills and low self-esteem.

With relaxing music and a calming environment, Apprenticeshop is tailored to be a ‘benevolent’ atmosphere to help children learn skills in a safe environment.

Daniela Shanly, proprietor and co-founder of Beech Lodge, said that the idea made ‘absolute sense’ as her 18-year-old son prepared to leave the school.

“Suddenly it was like ‘oh gosh, we need to get these young people preparing for work and give them employable skills – how are we going to do that given what we’ve got?’” said Daniela.

“[The shop] is what we’ve got and have access to, so it seemed to make absolute sense to do that.”

Daniel Giuseppe, headteacher at the school, said: “The school will be managing the shop, so it’s to provide real-life work experience to our young people.

“I think the importance of our students gaining work experience is just massive, and its such an enormous opportunity for our kids to get out into the world of work, in many ways before they would be able to elsewhere.

“The uptake has been amazing; the children are so keen to come down and be a part of it.

“The opportunities for them to be involved in every part of the process from helping us stock it to arranging the furniture, helping us price it and then eventually be customer-facing means there really a role for everybody.

“A lot of our young people learn by doing, so this hands-on approach is just a different way of delivering the curriculum.”

Lucy Barnes, principal and co-founder of the Beech Lodge, added that the work experience counted towards a skills programme as part of the children’s AQA Awards scheme.

“The children will be able to demonstrate to future employers the type of work they have done in a formally recognised way,” she added.

“So many of our young people learn really well from their peers, so we had the opportunity at Christmas to have a pop-up shop, and a lot of the children who were involved are now able to teach their peers those transferable skills.”

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