‘Unique shopping mall’ for Bexhill special school students

St Mary's Special School and College students in the salon with interim management board and senior leadership team members Amanda Clugston (Consultant Principal) and Ian Mason. SUS-160516-154734001
St Mary's Special School and College students in the salon with interim management board and senior leadership team members Amanda Clugston (Consultant Principal) and Ian Mason. SUS-160516-154734001

A ‘shopping mall’ believed to be the first of its kind in the UK is close to opening at a special school in Bexhill.

St Mary’s Special School and College’s vocational centre will provide work experience for its students and aims to give them more independence.

The reception will be manned by students and will direct visitors where to go

The reception will be manned by students and will direct visitors where to go

The ‘mall’ is formed by a quad with a reception, cafe and hairdressers ready to open next month, with plans for a car wash, bank, printers and launderette which should be open in September.

People outside the school will be invited to visit the centre in due course and consultant principal Amanda Clugston said the whole purpose is to help prepare the students for adult life.

“What we really believe is that this will make such a difference in the students being able to take their place in the community,” she said.

The centre will be a core part of the sixth form students’ courses and provide work experience placements for pupils in key stage four, with the older students acting as mentors.

The cafe at St Mary's vocational centre

The cafe at St Mary's vocational centre

It is also hoped being in a work environment will improve social skills, as well as numeracy and literacy through giving change for example.

“If you have been practicing being given change for years and are still at that level then you must be bored in the classroom but doing something exciting to keep them interested will help them learn,” Ms Clugston said.

The vocational centre will be for everyone to enjoy as staff and pupils can use the salon or go for a coffee at the cafe.

Parents will be able to deposit money into the bank for their children to withdraw and spend at the launderette to wash their uniform or at the general store.

St Mary's School's Vocational Centre. SUS-160516-154722001

St Mary's School's Vocational Centre. SUS-160516-154722001

Students will decide on the marketing, budgeting and naming of all the shops and will use the printers to make signs and business cards.

Ms Clugston and everyone involved is very excited for it to open and hope it will help to improve the school’s standing after coming out of special measures.

“The school was in special measures in 2014 but this school is a good school with outstanding features and we want to shout to the world what a fantastic place it is to live, learn and work,” she said.

The school relies on donations to finish off the remaining businesses. To make a pledge, contact the school on 01424 730740.

Observer reporter Jack Duggan in the cafe SUS-160516-154747001

Observer reporter Jack Duggan in the cafe SUS-160516-154747001

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