Monthly Archives: July 2012

Cheesy afternoon with Berkswell CE Primary School

pupils from BerkswellRam Hall Farm was awash with huge puddles as I made my way across to the milking parlour to meet the farmer Stephen Fletcher, chef Idris Caldora and Brian Hainsworth who works for the charity Farming and Countryside Education (FACE).

10 children from Berkswell CE Primary School were on a visit, accompanied by their class teacher Mr Penn and headteacher Tracy Drew. They were there to learn how ewes’ milk becomes the famous Berkswell cheese and to make some simple dishes with Idris, an award winning chef who has worked in many top restaurants and is now Executive Chef of the Adopt a School scheme.

We put on blue plastic hats and put bags on our feet to stop the spread of dirt and headed into the dairy to meet Lin Dutch, the cheesemaker and her team. We learnt about acidity, bacteria and germs, curds and whey and the wash needed to put a rind on a cheese. We sampled the whey and felt bags of cheese at different stage of production and marvelled at the cheese store which contains over 1500 cheeses at any one time.

The children then donned paper pinnies and a chef’s hat (small size) and under chef Caldero’s vigilant eye learnt to make Tomato Tarte and a Greek Salad which they took home with them.

They were joined by Meriden MP Caroline Spellman who turned out to be a good sport as well as a good cook as she pitched in and cooked alongside the children.

The event was organised by FACE

Dyslexia Behind Bars

Jackie Hewitt-Main is the driving force behind a remarkable project which might just revolutionise education in prisons in the UK.

Her project, based initially in Chelmsford Prison, has shown that up to 53% of prisoners may have dyslexia and that 21% have suffered a head injury which could have affected their behaviour. She has pioneered a cost-effective approach to help prisoners learn to read and write and there are clear signs that it could lead to a dramatic drop in re-offending rates.

Terry had been in and out of prison more than 40 times and was self-harming. He was totally frustrated with his inability to read and write and the fact that this was holding him back in a world where jobs, benefits and many social activities require good literacy skills.

He was assessed using Lexion software, a Swedish program which tests for a whole battery of skills and then provides carefully targeted exercises to build knowledge and confidence. He has made great progress and is now one of the prison mentors.

Jackie has adopted a grass roots approach. Learning doesn’t necessarily take place in a classroom because this is not a natural environment for those who have struggled and failed at school. She introduces learners to visual and tactile approaches and helps them find their own learning style.

“I was 40 when I found I had dyslexia,” said Jackie. ” I realise that my learning disabilities have been a big problem in my life. Many of the prisoners I met in my dyslexia and mentoring project at Chelmsford, including those with the most challenging behaviours, showed such great transformation and went on to help others with the knowledge they had gained.”

It is a shame that much of the publicity surrounding prisons this month centres on Gordon Ramsay – a man who can bully for England- and there is so little mention of the good work in prisons which can help offenders to turn their live around.

Dyslexia Behind Bars: Final Report of a Pioneering Teaching and Mentoring Project at Chelmsford Prison – 4 Years on by Jackie Hewitt-Main (Paperback – Jun 2012) can be bought on Amazon