Firpark Secondary is the school that’s teaching its young people invaluable skills

Firpark secondary is the school that woke up and smelt the coffee a long time ago.

The centre of learning based in Motherwell has been at the forefront of exciting new initiatives that are helping their kids with learning disabilities get the best chance in life.

Firpark has teamed up with local but burgeoning businesses such as We Love Coffee and Boh’ cucina to take part in groundbreaking ventures that are teaching the young people skills other schools don’t always deliver.

As a special school, Firpark’s teachers believe teaching vocational subjects gives them far better chances for employment, rather than subjects such as trigonometry or split infinitives.

Headmaster Ian McGurk and former head John Morley in conjunction with We Love Coffee are involved in pioneering work that has seen a new cafe open to the public – and the kids front and back of house.

Mr McGurk said: “The pupils help make and serve the best value for money in North Lanarkshire – a three-course meal for a fiver.”

His predecessor Mr Morley, who still helps out at the school, said: “The customers used to come out of sympathy. Now they come because of the quality.”

The Firpark Secondary’s industry-standard kitchen

When Covid restrictions clear, the school will serve between 30 to 50 lunches every Friday and of course quality coffee.

At the moment it is mostly takeaway.

The kids are trained how to cook and how to serve the food and drinks in what is an industry-standard education the teachers know can lead to employment.

Cafe coordinator Carol Burke, with an enthusiasm and passion that is infectious, added: “We Love Coffee has provided us with the coffee machines and other equipment while Boh’ cucina has given us pizza masterclasses. The idea behind this is to get the kids ready for work so they can then work for companies such as We Love Coffee.

“These two firms have seen a gap in the market due to staff shortages and they also believe in putting something back into the community here.”

The fish and chips were fabulous

As well as catering, Firpark is big on other career choices such as hair and beauty, horticulture and construction – real vocational stuff.

Mr Morley picks up on the school’s ethos: “We believe in vocational subjects that will give the kids industry-relevant qualifications and of course experience.

“We need to push them hard so they are ready for industry. It needs to be seamless. The mistakes have to happen in here.”

Mr McGurk sums up what the school can mean for the pupils with an inspiring story. He said: “We had a kid that started in this cafe, went to a local golf club after leaving school, then became a chef at Gleneagles before working in a restaurant that had a Michelin Star. He had learning difficulties but it didn’t stop him.

“With the right help and guidance, it shouldn’t stop anyone.”

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