Posted on: May 13, 2019
By Kathie McInnes
Stoke City player Tom Edwards has returned to his old school to officially open a rooftop garden terrace created by pupils.
It marks the first project to grow out of a new student-led health hub at Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy, in Blurton.
Now pupils are already planning to manage a mini-allotment on the terrace, where they will be encouraging local primary pupils to tend their own vegetable boxes too.
For 20-year-old Tom, yesterday’s visit was a chance to relive his school days as he took his GCSEs there four years ago. He said: “Walking in here, it felt like nothing had changed. It brought back nice memories.”
Tom, who is from the Stafford area, joined Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews in Year 11 as he was drawn to its links with Stoke City. He split his time between lessons and football training sessions – and eventually went on to play for the club full-time.
As a former pupil, the Stoke right-back was the ideal role model to invite to the launch event. “The project is great,” he added.
The hub is being funded through a £17,000 grant from Ormiston Academies Trust (OAT) and is aimed at improving young people’s mental health and school attendance.
Other developments in the pipeline include a sensory room to support youngsters with Asperger’s and autism or who need somewhere to calm down at school. The hub will also host yoga sessions for secondary students and cookery activities for primary pupils.
PE teacher Amy Hackney, who is also head of personal, social and health education, is helping the students to set up the projects. She said: “We’ve got 25 students involved at the moment. But after half-term, we will be opening it up to Year 7 students as well.
“We have already seen progress, with school attendance increasing between December and February.”
The idea is to get the young people to manage the activities themselves, linking up with the national ‘#iwill’ social action campaign.
For the garden terrace, Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews pupils have been busy planting seeds to grow flowers and vegetables in the wooden boxes.
Fourteen-year-old Paige Harker, from Newstead, said: “We’ve been giving up every Tuesday lunchtime to do it. We want to encourage people to come here and relax. It’s a just a place where you can be yourself and make friends.”
Getting to meet a top footballer was also an exciting moment. Paige added: “It proves that no matter what family or social class you are from, you can achieve if you put the work into it.”
Fellow student Amanda Wilson has also been volunteering on the garden project. The 14-year-old, from Newstead, said: “We are now going to paint some of the boxes, so they look colourful and vibrant.”
Fourteen-year-old Megan Smith, who also lives in Newstead, added: “Once it’s finished, it will look really nice.”
OAT is funding social action projects across many of its schools, including all four of the academies it sponsors in Stoke-on-Trent.
Go to www.stokesentinel.co.uk for the full story