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Essex Probation

Case Study: Hilltop School thanks offenders for make-over

Pupils at Hilltop School, in Wickford, now have a beautiful garden in which to play and work, thanks to donations of materials from local people and long hours of work by ex-offenders on Essex Probation’s Community Payback scheme.

Hard work benefits school environment

Building a pond, making planters for vegetables, creating a plastic-bottle greenhouse, developing a wildlife area and making picnic benches from scratch – individuals completing anything up to 300 hours ordered by the courts have transformed an ordinary field next to the school.

“We started working at this school around September last year. The Head Teacher had worked with us previously, when she was a Deputy Head at another school,” said Chris Watson, Probation’s Community Payback Coordinator in South East Essex. “There were two phases, including a pond to be dug out and fenced around for safety. A greenhouse was to be made out of plastic bottles. A vegetable patch was needed where the children could plant seeds, water and watch them grow.

 

Constructing a plastic-bottle greenhouse

 

 A local effort

The school called on the generous local community to provide some of the materials: the tyres around the perimeter fence, plants for the pond, bottles for greenhouse, for instance.

“The original intention was for the school to purchase picnic benches which we would put together and paint. However, we had the skill-base on the group to make them from planks of wood, and then paint them.

“The workers have put their hearts into this project, suggesting ways of improving the original ideas, and working hard.”

Children helped design it, we built it

Pupils learned a lot as the plans progressed. “The children have put a lot of thought and effort into the design of our new garden. Classes have been involved in site surveys, measuring and mapping the space and working out which areas are shady or sunny,” said Alison Waite, Head Teacher. “We are very grateful to Essex Probation’s Community Payback groups who have worked extremely hard every weekend to build and create the garden,” she said.