Pupils from Years 11 and 7, Head Teacher Stephen Hoult-Allen and Jay Baillie (far left) from The Collett School with Gary Carmalt and Daniel (front) from Benchmarx. Photo: Dani Rockley

Benchmarx helps special needs school stay on track

Published:  15 May, 2012

HEMEL HEMPSTEAD: A branch manager at a specialist kitchen and joinery suppliers has appealed to colleagues at other branches across the country to help him complete an ambitious charity project for a special needs school in Hertfordshire.

Gary Carmalt, Hemel Hempstead branch manager at Benchmarx Kitchens & Joinery, who is part of the Travis Perkins Group, is asking other branches across the group to donate kitchen parts for the urgently needed refit of four brand new kitchens at The Collett School in Hemel Hempstead.

The Collett School work with children aged 4-16 who have complex special educational needs above and beyond medical issues and educational difficulties. The school was set up in the 1960s and has stood the test of time, but now needs urgent refurbishment to continue offering a modern and nurturing learning environment.

Life skills are taught across the school to help children become independent and prepare them for adult life, but the school’s food technology room is no longer suitable as units are falling apart and the equipment is dated.

The project to refurbish this area came about through Jay Baillie, a special needs teacher at The Collett School, who was keen to look at ways of enhancing their facilities to create a more exciting and stimulating learning environment for pupils. “I mentioned the situation to my future son-in-law, who works for Travis Perkins, and he told me about their ‘1000 Project’. I contacted the Head Office and within two days I received offers of help from Benchmarx and City Plumbing. I was really impressed by the management’s enthusiasm and the way in which they were keen to support us.

Mr Carmalt of Benchmarx said: “Having met the staff and parents at the school, I was inspired by their positive attitude and willingness to get involved and make a change. So far the response has been great, but we want to pick up momentum and need more kitchen part donations to make sure we complete the project before the new term starts in September.”

Benchmarx is aiming to supply the units while City Plumbing aims to acquire the sinks and taps. The Collett School has recently bought three new freestanding appliances to replace ones that were on a hire agreement, but there is one appliance still outstanding.

Jay Baillie said: “This is a very big project and I am amazed at how quickly things are proceeding. We are hoping to install the kitchen over the summer and whilst parents and carers are prepared to don overalls and pick up a paint brush, we will need some expert help from plumbers, kitchen fitters, tillers and decorators.

“We’re also seeking help from other local businesses and tradespeople - when our fantastic new kitchen is ready, we will need new equipment and some specialist utensils that will make cooking easier and more accessible to all our children.”

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