Stone Bay School launches innovative holiday let with work experience scheme for students

Cllrs Kristian and Joanne Bright and school council member Kevin officially open The Lodge House Photo Kathy Bailes

A holiday let has been opened at Stone Bay School in Broadstairs in an innovative scheme which will provide work experience for students as well as an income for the school.

The Lodge House, which is live on Air BnB now, is being let at weekends and during school holidays.

The former classroom building at the front of the school was converted within 6-weeks and now features two bedrooms- a double and a room with two single beds – a sitting room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom.

Stone Bay School caters for young people aged 4 to 19 with severe learning and communication difficulties associated with autism.

Older students will support the running of The Lodge House through work experience in cleaning and laundry and other jobs which will also provide vital life skills for beyond their education.

Photo Kathy Bailes

According to Base (British Association for supported employment) the statistics for adults with a learning disability and autism in employment have remained consistently low across the country with a drop to 4.8% in the figures for 2021-22.

Base says there would have been an impact during this period due to the pandemic, with providers, especially local authorities, being pulled into supporting other front-line services.

Learning disability charity Mencap carried out a Big Learning Disability Survey in 2019 and found 23% of working age adults (aged 18 to 64) with a learning disability have a paid job. This is compared to:

  • 53% of working age adults with any disability, and
  • 76% of working age adults (aged 16-64) in the general population in the UK.

Breaking down the employment of people with a learning disability surveyed by the level of support they need:

  • 32% of those with the lowest support needs have a paid job
  •  9% of those with medium support needs have a paid job
  •  Fewer than 5% of those with the highest support needs have a paid job

Mencap has called on the government to address the barriers that people with a learning disability still face in accessing paid employment and want actions including improved employment support for people with a learning disability; support for employers to take on more people with a learning disability. for the education system to equip pupils with SEN with the skills to gain employment and the creation of more jobs and training opportunities for people with a learning disability, including more work experience openings and apprenticeships with availability of on-the-job support.

Headteacher Jane Hatwell with Cllrs Bright Photo Kathy Bailes

Finding work experience can be difficult as many people are not familiar with the way the youngsters might express themselves, says head teacher Jane Hatwell.

She said: ”It is all about the kids having a meaningful curriculum so they aren’t doing GCSEs but are still being part of a valued community.

“For some more complex children it is hard to get work experience so this is the first step with work experience on site and they could go into service cleaning in the future.

“The main purpose is about the children being valued and being part of an exciting project with work experience and life skills.

Photo Kathy Bailes

“The rate of special needs kids going into employment is really low. Lots may go into voluntary work but to get paid work is very hard and to get work experience is also hard.

“For many the next step from here is EKC or going on a social care package which makes me sad. I think we can do more for them and be ambitious for our kids.

“They don’t stop learning at 18, they might be 45 before they have all their skills, and we want to prepare them for living in the community.”

The smart holiday property went onto Air BnB in the May half term and has been booked every weekend since. Fees are £100 per night and the income is being ploughed back into the school for pupil resources and staff well-being.

It was officially opened yesterday (July 19) by Broadstairs mayor Cllr Kristian Bright and wife and fellow councillor Joanne Bright alongside youngsters from the School Council.

Photo Kathy Bailes

The mayor said: “I think (the holiday let) is brilliant, it sets kids up for being an active part of the community.

“It is a positive contribution. It gives them life skills to take on to the next stage of their lives and be a valuable part of the community.”

Stone Bay School will be catering for 112 students from September and every child has their own, bespoke curriculum.

Jane Hatwell and Lou Scott Photo Kathy Bailes

Assistant headteacher Lou Scott says youngsters also gain work experience at organisations such as Tag pet rescue, Monkton Nature Reserve and Broadstairs Library but  she hopes businesses in the community may also offer opportunities, with students being supported by staff at the school.

She added: “It would be really good if people would come into the school to talk about the jobs they do.”

Also from September the school will open an animal and horticultural area.

Lou said: “We will be growing things in the polytunnels and raised beds and will have four chickens which we hatched in school and I am keeping at my house at the moment.”

The project will help students gain AQA examination board accredited units.

Find The Lodge at Stone Bay on Air BnB

Find Stone Bay School online here

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  1. What a fantastic idea. More schools should hire out their facilities to the general public this thus bringing much needed additional revenue to schools.

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