The Community Service programme is now a well-established part of life at Shiplake. Having begun with some gardening for the elderly in Shiplake for Years 10, 11, 12 and 13, pupils are now undertaking valuable and much appreciated work in the local area or within the College itself on Tuesday afternoons.
A number of Sixth Formers visit local care homes to spend time with the elderly residents. Pennie Carter, Activity Coordinator at Lashbrook House Care Home in Shiplake, has emphasised the positive impact the students have on the home’s residents: "They love the youngsters coming in and chatting with them and they really look forward to Tuesday afternoons. They really interact with the residents which is lovely to see. I personally find it very helpful as well." One of the residents of the care home added that "Tuesdays are a real treat for us."
In addition, twelve charity shops around Caversham and Henley benefit from Shiplake pupils volunteering their time. Shop Manager of the Helen & Douglas House shop in Henley, Jean Hugill, comments "It’s been three years now that Shiplake have been sending students to volunteer in the shop. This helps us a great deal, especially as they don’t mind what jobs they do. They are up for anything, from working the till, sorting stock or dealing with the customers. A number also undertake their own fundraising for the charity which is great bonus."
As well as providing a great service to local residents and businesses, the scheme helps the students to develop numerous interpersonal skills. Tommy Moore, a year 12 student who volunteers in the Helen & Douglas House shop, explains "I like helping the community in this way and it is also lots of fun. In addition I am learning new skills like working the till and interacting with the customers." Tasha Custis adds: "I really enjoy working in the charity shop, and working with the public. I feel like I am giving something back and helping this worthy cause."
Headmaster, Gregg Davies, is a big supporter of the scheme. "It is great to see our students out and about serving in the community. They clearly have a wonderful impact on the charities and elderly residents’ lives. It is also beneficial to their own personal development, helping them to improve their communication and other important life skills."
For the students who remain in College, there are numerous other tasks to be completed. They form a 'green team' who deal with recycling around the site and the Headmaster also oversees a group doing jobs in the orchard. A number walk the dogs belonging to staff members.