Messin’ about in boats helps Ian Mikardo School pupils into vocational training

PUBLISHED: 13:06 17 April 2015 | UPDATED: 13:06 17 April 2015

Plain woodwork... pupils at Ian Mikado High learning craft of boatbuilding

Plain woodwork... pupils at Ian Mikado High learning craft of boatbuilding

Ian Mikardo High Sch

Youngsters with complex educational problems are turning their hand to boatbuilding with an eye on future careers, ready to enter the world of work.

Plain sailing... testing the finished productPlain sailing... testing the finished product

They completed a 15-week woodwork project in Ian Mikardo High School in London’s East End with a day on a reservoir testing out the three “mouse” boats they had built themselves.

It was, after all, Ratty in Wind in the Willows who suggested there was “nothing as good as messing around in boats”.

The course run at the school in Bromley-by-Bow started with scale models which the young students vigorously tested by “messing about in the water” for buoyancy before building the real thing.

Boatbuilding ends in fun trials on the water for Ian Mikardo youngstersBoatbuilding ends in fun trials on the water for Ian Mikardo youngsters

“Building boats they could use on the water was a massive achievement,” the school’s woodwork instructor Jake Hally-Milne said.

“There were days when they found it hard to visualise getting on to the water.

“But to their great credit they have shown how skilful they are in getting boats to move around.”

The boys made three mouse boats in woodwork class, following boat-builder Gavin Atkin’s design.

Each boat using one-and-a-half sheets of plywood was straightforward to make.

The woodwork lessons are a good foundation for vocational training, getting youngsters prepared for the world of work.

But its real value was building a form of transport that can be used by those who made it, the school’s boat building instructor Jonathan Carver pointed out.

He explained: “It’s a great way to boost self-esteem if you make something that’s practical—they showed what they can achieve when they concentrate.”

One pupil, Harry, proved to be “a natural” on Stoke Newington’s West Reservoir in getting a mouse boat to move around. His classmate Connor had “an instinct for feeling the wind to manoeuvre his boat”.

Now the pupils are asking why they can’t do that for PE every week.

Ian Mikardo achieved global recognition last year for its nurturing in Channel 5’s Too Tough to Teach? documentary. Its focused education and intervention programme helps youngsters who have social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, with 96 per cent of its Year 11 school-leavers over the last six years getting into further education, training or jobs.

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