Young people with additional needs are helping run a shop selling handmade cards and gifts in Huddersfield’s Byram Arcade.
The shop called Blossom, funded and owned by Kirklees Council, is providing exciting opportunities for autistic teenagers who attend Woodley School and College in Longley.
As part of their college work, the young people aged 16 to 19 are designing and making products such as cards, candles, coasters and mugs before selling them at the shop.
The shop is helping students to gain work experience and learn valuable skills. Working at Blossom is an extension of their college curriculum and is set to play a vital role in future employability.
Woodley caters for children and young people with complex autism and is one of the schools being expanded as part of Kirklees Council’s transformation of services in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
As well as having the new satellite provision at Blossom, it’s planned that Woodley will move to a state-of-the-art site in a major investment by the council.
The opening of Blossom is another key step in the long-term support for children, young people and families with SEND in Kirklees.
The start-up costs and money to refurbish the shop came from funding which is specifically allocated for SEND provision.
Rosie Thorley, assistant head teacher at Woodley, said: “We’re thrilled to be working with the council in opening Blossom and creating such amazing opportunities for our students.
“Blossom is very much a part of our college. Students spend time in the workshop making products, time in the shop developing their customer service skills and time in the on-site classroom completing their accreditation work.
“It’s a great chance to take on more responsibility and experience a real working environment. They are also accessing new places like local shops, cafes and the bus station, which is really important in helping our students to grow in confidence and develop their independence.
“Students have a big say in what’s made and sold at Blossom and they are interacting with members of the public, as well as working with each other and the Woodley staff. The benefits are huge for our students.”
Clr Elizabeth Reynolds, Kirklees Cabinet member for learning and aspiration, said: “This is a wonderful way of supporting young people who often face more challenges than most of their peers.
“Opening a site that’s dedicated to teaching these skills, both for education and for life, shows we are taking a highly creative approach.
“Woodley students make lots of decisions about the running of the shop – they even chose the name – and profits will go back into Blossom to fund more equipment, more products and even more experiences.
“We’re proud to be leading the way in helping autistic young people to thrive. The council has a tremendous commitment to supporting families with additional needs so that all children can enjoy the best possible start in life.”
It’s planned that Woodley’s main school site will move from Longley to Almondbury, where there is scope for new facilities which better meet the needs of its children and young people.
Similarly, there are plans for Joseph Norton Academy, which caters for pupils with Social, Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties, to relocate from Scissett to Deighton.
Both schools will increase pupil numbers, helping to meet the growing local demand for special school places.
Blossom can be found at 28/29 Byram Arcade, Westgate, Huddersfield, HD1 1ND.