Nature reserve project helps pupils threatened with expulsion

A nature project is encouraging people to explore the East India Dock Basin wildlife reserve and giving schoolchildren threatened with expulsion a second chance.

Nestling on the edge of the River Thames in Leamouth and surrounded by busy roads and flats, the reserve stands as an overlooked treat for people in Tower Hamlets.

But Wild Space Your Place, a partnership between the RSPB and the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, is working with schools, residents’ associations and other groups to prompt them to visit and discover its varieties of birds, including peregrine falcons and kingfishers and wildlife.

Young pupils from Tower Hamlets who face expulsion are also being offered alternative education at the Peacock Gym in Newham by helping out on the salt marsh site and working towards BTEC qualifications.

After getting in trouble, Jack Fenttiman, 16, of Manchester Grove in the Isle of Dogs, switched from attending lessons at George Green school last September to the gym.

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He said: “I learn more.

“I get treated like I’m an adult.”

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Wild Space Your Place is funded for three years through a �379,000 grant, received in 2009, from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Following a survey in 2005 which showed that ethnic minorities, young children and disabled people are under-represented in visiting the reserve, the project intends to redress the balance with outreach work, school visits and funding of field trips.

A Wildwatch in the Dock week is planned from May 30 to June 5 with nature walks and bird watches allowing visitors to grab a sight of around 70 species of bird, including kestrels, egrets and terns.

Project manager, Colin Bowen said: “I’d encourage anyone to get involved.

“It is good to have an awareness of wildlife and nature.”

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