We were so committed to our principles of bringing the community together and giving children a practical use for maths that we built a shop. Yes a real shop. It is run by our shared PSA and staffed by excellent volunteers and students from Exeter House Special School as part of their life skills programme.
The new retail outlet has been purpose-built on the Somerset Road campus shared by St Mark’s C of E Junior School, Wyndham Park Infant School and Exeter House School. We decided we needed a place for people to meet, and experience tells us people like it when there are refreshments. We also wanted children to do maths-for-a-reason. Children spend too long looking at theoretical things and this gives them a chance to put it into practice. It’s not unusual for schools to sell work made by children, but this is a real shop and our children will be making things like biscuits or bracelets, selling them and reinvesting. They may want to do something like buying strawberry plants for next year and selling the fruit.
It has brought everyone together – including some of our harder-to-reach families. Some of our parents are on site for 45 minutes during the school run because of staggered opening, and we have great feedback from them. The shop will be used as a window for other businesses, such as a restaurant that is coming in to cook food and advertise itself to the approximately 700 parents who have access to the site.
The Shop has been created to answer three needs – somewhere for parents to meet, talk and network, an outlet for pupils to sell home-grown produce and school-made crafts and goods and a place where pupils can learn valuable production, retail and hospitality skills.
Coffee is a great leveller, especially when crossing the school threshold can cause anxiety for many parents.
This is a unique experience for ‘hands on’ maths. It combines enterprise and experience seamlessly. The first phase of the project has involved creating the café-kitchen, outdoor seating area and barrow from which to sell produce. Phase 2, where we hope to create a sheltered café seating area, business networking events and an extended range of goods to sell. We also aim for this to become a community resource where local people can meet and integrate with the school community.
We also use the barrow on a daily basis to sell items for charities. Indeed the children have six Charity Days throughout the year to ‘put something back’ – perhaps through cake sales, running a toy stall or games etc.