Kirk provides ‘happy school’ for special children at Erskine

Erskine - JordanMacKellar&TriciaAnderson (1)

Pupil Jordan Mackellar, 15, said he really enjoyed being at the school.

By Cameron Brooks

A new “first class” education campus run by CrossReach, the operating arm of the Church of Scotland’s social care council, has officially opened on the banks of the Clyde at Erskine.

The organisation is committed to achieving the best outcomes possible for children and young people and believes that the new approach is the ideal way to support those who have experienced trauma and adverse childhood experiences.

Erskine Waterfront Campus is part of a change that provides a high standard of education for up to 36 children who need additional support in a high quality, modern environment.

It is easily accessible for children and families in West Dunbartonshire who can travel to it via the Erskine Bridge.

The school, which provides places for day pupils, was delivered by Portakabin Scotland and comprises of 41 modular buildings clustered round a central courtyard, which is fitted out in Astroturf for outdoor activities and a climbing frame.

Built off-site and craned into position, there are five classroom blocks and a main block which houses a top of the range kitchen and dining room, assembly hall, gym hall, meeting rooms, administration offices, showers and toilets.

Staffed by a team of 20 specially trained education specialists, 21 pupils, aged 7-15, enrolled at the independent school in August.

Class sizes are small which means the school, which also caters for pupils in residential care, provides an environment which is nurturing and where youngsters can work in an atmosphere of acceptance for their individual worth.

Established nearly 150 years ago, the Church of Scotland’s social care arm is one of the largest social care providers in Scotland.

Erskine Waterfront Campus marks a move away from CrossReach’s larger care and education provision at Geilsland School in Beith, Ayrshire and Ballikinrain School near Balfron in Stirlingshire to a model of smaller community houses, which will be clustered round a central education hub.

Erskine Kyle FlemingKyle Fleming, Head of Education at the Erskine Waterfront Campus, pictured left, said he and his team were “feeling really motivated and energised” by the new facility, which has been built on ground leased from Renfrewshire Council.

“This is a first class school with a wonderful nurturing ethos where pupils are provided with a high level of support to bring out the best in them,” he added.

“They have access to the full curriculum in creative ways and we are committed to giving our pupils the best possible start in life.

“The school community has been welcomed by the wider Erskine community, allowing our curriculum to benefit from local facilities and new partnerships.”

Mr Fleming said pupils use the local library, cycle paths, a soft play centre and older children take buses to school which helps develop their life skills and resilience.

He added that having the school near a town, as opposed to the countryside, meant that children can feel included and part of a community in a new way.

Mr Fleming said: “Curriculum leaders are building exciting new learning experiences and everyday relevance into their teaching.

“While change can be difficult, we have made this transition together and are all the stronger for it.”

Pupil Jordan Mackellar, 15, said he really enjoyed being at the school.

“I liked nursery and primary school but when I went to secondary school I found it difficult to focus on the work because there were too many people in the classes,” he explained.

“There were too many distractions and as the years went on I started going less and less and eventually I stopped attending at all.

“But since coming to Erskine Waterfront Campus it has been a lot better and I have been enjoying it a lot more.

“It is a place where you can come and be yourself and you don’t have to worry about being judged and what others think.

“You can just come and learn and be happy. There are fewer people in a classroom and it is a lot easier to concentrate and you get more one-on-one time with teachers to help you with things you are struggling with.”

Jordan said he hoped to go to college and train to be a mechanic.


The new Church of Scotland school near Erskine Bridge. 

Sheila Gordon, Director of Children and Family Services at CrossReach, said: “Over the past five years, CrossReach has undertaken a review of its provision, taking into account the current needs of children and families who are referred to the service.

“This has led to the decision to move away from the larger residential school model to a more modern approach, with children living in small houses within communities and attending school in a similar way that other children would do, giving them the opportunity to achieve the best possible outcomes.

“It also opens up access to children who may need additional support with learning by providing places for day pupils.

“We are very excited to have a new, purpose built school campus at the Waterfront in Erskine which provides a quality modern education environment.”

Alongside a full curriculum, CrossReach provides a range of creative learning experiences, outdoor and sporting activities for the children and young people who attend, including “Forest School”, which is a way of promoting learning using the natural environment outdoors.

The social care provider hopes to work with local community groups to develop the green space around the Erskine site for the benefit of all.

Gregor Hood, Regional Hire Manager for Portakabin Scotland, “Portakabin is delighted to have played a vital part in creating this safe and secure learning environment which we hope will be instrumental in enhancing the lives of young people.

“It has been immensely satisfying to see an empty site being completely transformed into a life changing community resource.

“Designed around a central courtyard, the building offers a modern learning environment, with the security and privacy which we hope creates the ideal space to encourage the students’ development.”

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