REVIEW OF THE YEAR: Council’s waterfront project wins national acclaim

FENLAND District Council scooped a national Waterways Renaissance Award in the Education and Learning Category back in March for the way it worked alongside construction partners in the development of the Nene Waterfront to deliver educational opportuniti

FENLAND District Council scooped a national Waterways Renaissance Award in the Education and Learning Category back in March for the way it worked alongside construction partners in the development of the Nene Waterfront to deliver educational opportunities linked to the project.

Fenland was hugely over-endowed with educational projects, thanks to the unstinting support of partners in the Nene Waterfront Regeneration Project. Whereas other award entrants submitted one project each, Fenland was able to submit six educational projects, any one of which could have carried off the top prize on its own.

This followed the Fenland victory last year in the Waterways Renaissance Award in the Strategy and Master Planning Category.

The six Nene Education projects that so impressed the judges were:

1. Nene Curriculum Project:

Fenland District Council teamed up with English Partnerships, the Cambridgeshire Environmental Education Service and local schools in Wisbech to create learning and teaching packs linked to the national curriculum.

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The project resulted in written courses for Geography and a range of cross-curricular subjects looking at change in the urban environment for Key Stage 2 (7-11 year olds). The teaching and learning packs had been used by well over 200 local students since the beginning of the 2007/08 academic year.

The Nene Curriculum Project had been developed with £30,000 of funding from the partners and was the start of a major initiative to expand the learning and teaching packs to meet the needs of Key Stage 3 (11-13 year olds) and then to 'A' Level.

Until this initiative was introduced, schools in Wisbech made use of learning and teaching packs relating to towns in Wales or far-flung corners of England. Now, local pupils can benefit from learning about their own urban environment. It also means that pupils and teachers across the country will be able to learn how Wisbech tackled the historic issues of economic and social decline and how, with a clear vision, a regeneration project can reverse an areas seemingly ingrained fortunes.

2. Open Air Gallery Project:

Fenland District Council teamed up with project managers MACE to provide 21 schools with all the materials to each create an 8ft by 4ft framed mural on the future of Wisbech as they saw it. The 23 vibrant murals exhibited on site boards in Bedford Street, have proved to be a fantastic success.

3. Building Site interactive broadband link to Wisbech schools:

Fenland District Council teamed up with Keir Eastern, who were constructing the iconic Boathouse, to fund a computer and broadband link between the Nene Waterfront construction site and all Wisbech schools. The partners worked closely together to establish the broadband link between the schools and the construction site office.

The aim of the link was to enable all schools and all age-groups to 'video conference' with construction workers at all levels from the architect, quantity surveyor and site manager to carpenters, plumbers, dumper truck drivers and crane operators in order to broaden the employment horizons of local children.

4. Sea Cadets:

As a direct result of the Nene Waterfront Regeneration Project creating a vibrant new yacht harbour with 128 berths, the Fenland District Council port authority had been able to dramatically improve facilities for Sea Cadets, most of whom come from the Waterlees area of Wisbech.

Prior to the creation of the yacht harbour, the current compliment of 24 Sea Cadets had the opportunity to get out on the water only once a year and the rest of the time their training was classroom bound. Now, they have the opportunity to go out on the river and into The Wash twice a week during the summer. This hugely improved their enjoyment and their opportunities to acquire practical sailing skills and nationally recognised qualifications as well as self-reliance and self confidence.

5. The Foyer Project:

Fenland District Council provided the land and worked with Axiom Housing to provide a new, purpose built modern hostel accommodation and learning facility for homeless or disadvantaged young people between the ages of 16 and 24.

6. Education Afloat:

More than 400 young people from the Thomas Clarkson Community College had been through the seamanship course which was linked to key skills in the national curriculum, since the yacht harbour was created.

The aim of Education Afloat was to undertake curriculum and key skills studies while in the practical environment of a large, ocean-going sailing yacht.

Education Afloat runs three courses: River Connections, Coastal Connections and Offshore Connections. All three courses lead to a certificate acknowledging the crewing capabilities of participants. For instance, the Sea Connections certificate acknowledges that a pupil had been a full crew member from Wisbech to Grimsby and back, including a night passage that required watchkeeping duties. Particpants received a commendation for demonstrating qualities of courage and determination in testing conditions and a willingness to work as part of a team towards a shared objective.

Leader of the Council, Geoffrey Harper, said: "We were over the moon to have won a second Waterways Renaissance Award in two years. It has been hugely impressive how funding partners and construction companies involved in the Nene Waterfront Regeneration Project came together to make this £50 million project relevant and exciting to the young people of Wisbech.