Providing students with real life hospitality skills was one of the main drivers behind Horsham Special School establishing an educational café.
Led by education support officer Pauline Margetts, The Central provides opportunities for students of the school to learn essential workplace skills and build their personal and social confidence
“The opportunity to provide these kids with skills for employment, for the workplace is fantastic. Not only do they gain food prep skills and food hygiene skills, but they’re counting money for the till, interacting with customers – it’s fantastic,” Pauline said.
“At the start of the year they’ve got to learn all these new skills but by the end of the year they’re looking after everything and basically running it all.”
The program also has a strong emphasis on building confidence in students, opting for a strengths-based model approach to the learning undertaken at the cafe.
“Whatever each student’s strengths are and whatever their individual needs are, we build on that to get them confident and then help them to branch out when they’re ready,” Pauline said.
“They might be comfortable starting with money or food prep but we like to ensure they are given the chance to try new things out.”
The cafe program is a joint partnership between The Central and the school and has been readily welcomed by the Horsham community.
“We have three or four students who come down each day who prepare the shop and all the food,” Pauline said.
“We have a former student, Caroline Clements, who makes all the slices for the café. She also makes slices for other businesses in town.
“Drewan (Jennings-Davey) is another one of our ex-students who is our barista.”
Pauline said the partnership between the cafe, school and the community support was what made the initiative so successful.
“Prior to COVID, we were at Federation Uni and we’d been there for three and a half years but when COVID hit we had to relocate and that is when we ended up here (55a Roberts Avenue),” she said.
“The community response has been absolutely fantastic. Sometimes there is a stigma around disabilities but people, customers are blown away with the students’ abilities and how good the coffee is!
“I love being able to show the community what our students can do and they grow so much in confidence when they achieve a new skill or look back on how much they’ve learnt across a year.
“We hope that when these students do go out into the workforce they will have confidence and a skill set that they can continue to develop.”
Barista Drewan Jennings-Davey with some of the cafe’s slices.
Zach Ferguson and Renee Castleman cutting and weighing copha. The students take part in a variety of tasks at the cafe.