Shepherd’s hut makes world of difference to students

Shepherd’s hut makes world of difference to students

Published: 21 July 2022

A donation from Darlington Building Society is giving young people with special educational needs more space to express themselves and get closer to nature.

Clervaux Trust has used the £14,610 grant from the Society to buy a beautiful shepherd’s hut, which is being used as an addition classroom for students to produce a range of textiles.

The donation came from the Society’s pledge to share five per cent of its profits with good causes in the community, and the shepherd’s hut is now in place at the Trust’s Garden School at Clow Beck Farm, near Croft-on-Tees.

The Trust runs an innovative curriculum – ‘Practical Skills and Therapeutic Education’ – comprising traditional crafts, such as felting, weaving, greenwood work, blacksmithing, pottery, horticulture, animal husbandry and social enterprise, alongside registered therapies.

The introduction of the shepherd’s hut has provided a dedicated area for the production of textiles – using wool from sheep at the farm.

Steve McIntosh, Assistant Head Teacher, said: “As the school grows, we need more learning spaces and the shepherd’s hut, provided by Darlington Building Society, fits perfectly with the ethos and aesthetics of the place.”

The school has 14 students, who are all benefiting from the shepherd’s hut, and that number is expected to grow to 35 over the next few years.

A traditional spinning wheel is used in the shepherd’s hut, with the students enjoying a “land to craft” process, involving cleaning the wool, dying it, and then making a range of practical and decorative items.

“It’s been invaluable to have been able to provide this learning space for the students, and we are so grateful to Darlington Building Society. Their donation has made a world of difference and it’s fantastic to have the support of an organisation that is so embedded in the local community.”

Beth Elenor, textile tutor and teaching assistant, added: “We were quite restricted before, and textiles didn’t have its own space. It’s really important for the students to have that quiet corner and they really love their time in the shepherd’s hut.”

Chris Hunter, Chief Operating Officer for Darlington Building Society, visited the Clervaux Trust to see the shepherd’s hut being used.

Chris said: “The Society’s core purpose is to provide mortgage and savings, and we have done this since 1856.  The success of the Society enables the 5% Pledge to make a difference in so many diverse ways. The Clervaux Trust is an amazing charity and it’s brilliant to see our donation being put to such creative use.

“The Society continues to perform well in 2022 and that means we will be able to go on contributing to more fantastic community projects like this one in the future.”

Clervaux Trust is part of Ruskin Mill Trust, which runs four schools, plus colleges and adult social care services. The Clervaux Garden School is the most northerly of those schools.