Back in early 2019 we received a call from Ben Jones Vice Principal of Caldicote Primary School, Middlesbrough.
The purpose of the call was to offer Frade’s Men’s Shed a chance to showcase their skills.
This opportunity would see our Men’s Shed and Caldicote’s Primary School together embarking on a journey that would benefit many of the community’s children for years to come.
The Shedders were extremely excited when they learned of the project and just couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
After inspection, they could see the potential of the Bus and from this point, they worked side by side with the school’s faculty to agree a plan of action.
Frade needed to learn more about bus conversions and what the School’s intentions were, so it was a crash course for ourselves in leaning about conversions for usable school space.
The total Bus conversion took eight months to complete. The finished product looks amazing!
The Shedders have made substantial growth within themselves, made some new friends and created an amazing working space for the children of Middlesbrough.
Frade, along with Ageing Better Middlesbrough set up the Men’s Shed to help isolated individuals get out and about, socialise with like-minded people and learn new skills.
Due to the on going success of the Men's Shed we now continue to be supported by Boro Man Can and receive funding through the National Lottery Community Fund, the National Lottery players and the Department of Culture Media and Sport.
Not only did this project help towards managing social isolation, it took them one step further on their skills training and got them active in their local community. The feedback from the community has been very supportive and encouraging for the Shedders.
Why was the bus donated to the school?
The bus was donated to the school following links with Stagecoach North East. Mrs Dean leads the 2-Year-Old Provision 'Remarkable Rebels' has good links through her husband, who is a driver with Stagecoach and suggested taking the bus to Caldicotes Primary School.
The school agreed to take the bus to add additional capacity to the school site, whilst also adding a new element to the schools learning environment.
At the early stages it was unclear how the school were going to convert the bus. They focused on utilising the space to encourage reading, and as comfortable space to share, enjoy a book in this new library space.
What were the original needs/intentions for the bus?
The focus we had for the bus was primarily around reading but also with a view to ensuring we had a flexible working space, most likely upstairs where a teacher would be able to bring a full class and utilise the space as a classroom environment.
It was important to us at this stage that we had a space that could be used throughout the school day, including at lunch and break time.
We wanted to ensure that the children had as much voice within the process as possible, they were clear that they wanted downstairs to be flexible and allow them to read and share a book but also have a space to socialise and enjoy each other’s company.
As the plans for the upstairs evolved we felt that we wanted to make the space available as a wider extension of the current Forest School provision within the academy but in broader sense which is when we decided to make the space have a focus as a science lab.
Though the space is equally available to seat a full class, it has allowed us to build capacity around our science curriculum and has meant we have a renewed focused upon the fundamentals of science teaching.
Why did you approach the Men’s Shed (how did you hear about them)?
After discussions with the team at Men Shed and their focus upon upcycling and community projects it was immediately clear that the Shedders could work together upon a shared challenge.
Following a successful submission for a community grant from Middlesbrough Council, work began in earnest and what followed was an extremely productive working relationship between the academy and the Men Shed.
Ben Jones (Vice-Principal) said:
'From when the coach arrived to the completion of the project I have been stunned at the effort, commitment and sheer graft that the team from the Men Shed put in to the completion of the 'Caldi-Coach' in every conversation they were always eager to get it right.
Purely based on their commitment to making sure the children at Caldicotes had space they could share and enjoy for years to come.
This was by no means an easy task, the bus was old, tired and not necessarily the most welcoming space initially, but based on the initial plan they were able to transform that plan and vision into a reality.
One of the things that struck me was that no challenge was too small, so that as the project developed and we made small design changes they met the task with gusto, the end result being a space that children can utilise for years to come.
What has struck both staff, parents and children has been the high level of finish at completion, the bus is a real testament to the professionalism of the team in Men Shed.
I would welcome working with Frade and the Men Shed at any time in the future and hope they know what a difference they have made to Caldicotes through their hard work, commitment and engagement with the message behind the 'Caldi-Coach'.
Frade’s recently appointed CEO Michael Bertram who took the challenge of boosting our efforts to alleviate poverty with the Tees-Valley gave his comments on the project.
“This has been an amazing project. The skills shown by our Shedders coupled with their enthusiasm has made us all at Frade very proud of their achievements. We look forward to working on more projects like this in the future. The Men Shed I now an integral part of the fibre of the school and without them this project would have not been completed”.