Volunteers help transform conservation area at Kent specialist school

20 Apr 2023
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Eleven volunteers from our Southern Construction on site at Helen Allison School after helping to transform its conservation area

Eleven volunteers from our Southern Construction team spent a day at Helen Allison School in Meopham last week transforming its conservation area. 

The specialist school for autistic students is creating a new forest school which would provide a multi-sensory space to enhance learning about nature and encourage students to engage with the great outdoors. It is trying to raise funds to add new planters, erect a wooden gazebo, new shed, and den building, build a sensory garden as well as enable outdoor music to be played.

To support the school’s ambition, the team of volunteers carried out a range of tasks on the site on Friday 14 April as part of our Community Action Programme (CAP). The CAP scheme gives our 4,000 people a day of company time each year to volunteer and help an organisation or charity of their choice.

While their day jobs involve upgrading key gas network infrastructure across the south-east, the volunteers threw themselves into the project by stripping the existing overgrown conservation area down to the ground. The team then dismantled an old shed, dug out overgrown planting and used a mini digger to help level the earth.

The project was a labour of love for our Riser Replacement Team Manager Dan Mills, whose son attends the school. Dan said: “Our son Jude is thriving at Helen Allison School. The teachers and staff are amazing, and they really bring the best out of their pupils. Our family feels so lucky Jude attends this school as we know he will get the best education he can possibly have.

“This is why I encouraged my team to volunteer their services to help with the new forest school. We’re all so pleased we’ve been able to support this project, and when finished, it will be a great addition that all the pupils will love, especially Jude.”

The Meopham-based school is one of dozens of specialist facilities supported by the National Autistic Society working to help the 700,000 autistic people and their families across England and Wales. It provides a stimulating, high quality education for primary, secondary, and post-16 level students to reach their full potential in a safe environment.

Helen Allison School Principal Adam Wadey said: “We would like to thank SGN and all the team who volunteered to spend their CAP day helping the school to kick-start our forest school project, which we hope to complete this summer.

“The forest school will support our students’ development by providing a further multi-sensory opportunity for our pupils to immerse themselves in using an outdoor setting. We envisage our forest school focusing on developing skills such as resilience, self-confidence and motivation, as well as providing further chances to work collaboratively with peers, problem solve and have fun!”