From education to employment


A group of students from North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College (NWSLC) are helping to maintain the memorial gardens at a Nuneaton crematorium as part of a project believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

The project was devised by college tutor Ian Lee after he became aware that the Heart of England Crematorium on Eastboro Way in Nuneaton required additional help to maintain the gardens and grounds of the facility. Ian agreed with the facility’s owners, Dignity, that the college’s foundation learning students would help the groundworks team to keep the planting, hedgerows, and trees tidy, and to clear any litter or debris from the memorial gardens and car park.

Ian said, “I knew that this would be a highly sensitive project because of the location, and also a challenge because it is a large site set within 13 acres of countryside. The memorial gardens also feature a river and small brook.

“We worked closely with the crematorium team to plan and prepare before work started, including taking a detailed tour, and participating in a health and safety induction. We addressed the sensitivity of the location with our students and spent a lot of time discussing respectful behaviour. On a visit there one day, I was overwhelmed by the response from our students who, immediately stopped working when a funeral procession arrived, put their hands by their sides and bowed their heads.  

“This experience is teaching our students life skills as well as employability skills and teamwork, and they are developing emotional intelligence and confidence. During the project, there have been lots of discussions about bereavement with many students sharing stories about family and friends that they have lost.

“One of our students, Cody, revealed to us that his own brother’s ashes had been scattered in the memorial gardens which he had not visited for more than ten years. He is able to take time during his break to sit down, have a chat with his brother and say goodbye. Cody has opened up hugely since starting the project and his confidence has improved.”

Two groups of students, who are following a foundation learning programme at NWSLC’s Nuneaton Campus, work at the crematorium on Thursdays and Fridays and are now getting involved with plans to create an attractive willow arch in the gardens.

Students say that they enjoy the project and have gained a great deal from the experience. Kristian said, “I like going there because I make friends and we learn new tasks.” Jamie said, “The staff are really friendly, and I always feel appreciated and very welcome.” Joshua said, “We really enjoy helping people.”

Tom Shellard, Business Leader for Heart of England Crematorium said, “We are delighted with the response from the NWSLC students to our memorial gardens maintenance project. All the students have worked very hard and behaved with dignity and respect that is a credit to them and the college. We look forward to maintaining the relationship in the future and hope that they will enjoy seeing the positive impact that their work as made on our premises.”

Marion Plant, OBE FCGI, Principal and Chief Executive of NWSLC said, “Taking part in projects like this enables our students to focus on building transferable, social and employability skills, and helps them to access to a rich set of experiences that teach them why it is important to contribute to society within their local communities.”   

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