In the first round of YAF grant applications, Cove School applied to run a “Ready, Steady, Cook” project.
This project was aimed at students who had attendance significantly below the school target of 96%. In fact within the cohort of students finally selected to participate in the project, only 3 had attendance above 90%. The lowest attendance before the project was 64% and the highest 91%. The average attendance of the whole group was 81.5% - equivalent of all of them taking a day off every week! The idea behind it was simple – encourage the students to attend, involve their families, make them all feel it was worthwhile, make them realise that people cared enough about them and their attendance to go to this bother! Each student’s continuation on the project was subject to them improving their attendance over its duration.
Over a 6 week period, students would give up one afternoon/evening to undertake their training. At the end of the 6 weeks, parents, governors, staff and guests would be invited to the school to enjoy an evening of entertainment and good food; prepared, cooked and served by the Ready Steady Cook project participants.
When this application was being considered by the CMPP partners, it was felt that more could be done to support it than simply offering financial assistance. Lt Col MacGregor, Aldershot Garrison Commander, was quick to offer support in the form of volunteer chefs from 11 Brigade’s Gurkha regiment to work alongside the students; whilst a quick phone call from our Project Manager, Chris Eustace, to Danielle Enderson at Village Club Hotel, secured the offer of training and support for the front of house crew. Indeed, the front of house crew and Mrs Howells spent an enlightening afternoon and evening at the Hotel setting up for a Take That tribute evening; the crew were also extremely grateful for the loan of tablecloths and place settings by the hotel which really helped to keep the costs down for the event.
The project involved 12 students who have not only planned the menu, but every aspect of the evening. Each week the chef crew worked with the volunteer chefs from the Ghurka regiment to practise and perfect each dish in their three course menu, whilst the front of house crew planned in detail everything outside of the kitchen.
Mrs Sarah Howells, Executive Head Teacher at Cove School enthused
“Seeing this project develop and come to fruition has been one of the highlights of my time here at Cove – it has been an utter privilege to get to know these children so much better than I did before. I am so, so, proud of each and every one of them!"
So what’s next? A great project, but how to make it sustainable for the future and not reliant on external funding? At the meal, as well as celebrating the success of the project, guests were asked to pay what they felt their meal was worth by placing a cash donation in an envelope.
Chris Eustace and Elan Goldsmith who attended the event on behalf of CMPP, spoke with the mum of one of the front of house crew who was simply blown away by the project and the beautifully prepared, cooked and served meal in a school hall that had been transformed into a lovely restaurant. She was quite emotional and enthused that if anyone had said to her 2 months previously that her daughter would voluntarily get up at 6am on a Saturday morning to go to a school related event at which she would be working hard until midnight she would not have believed them!”