Whipsnade Zoo Academy set to feature in BBC documentary We Are England tonight

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The academy teachers youngsters how to be a zoo keeper

A TV documentary on the work of a Zoo Academy designed to improve behaviour and learning, through engaging with animals, airs tonight.

The second episode in series 2 of We Are England focuses on the academy at Whipsnade Zoo which teaches young people not in mainstream education how to be a zoo keeper.

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For the last ten years, students from The Avenue Centre, a Luton school for children unable to attend mainstream education, have taken part in a course which works with Whipsnade Zoo’s 10,000 animals.

From left, Danielle Hearne, Malachi and Stephanie Partington pictured at the Zoo AcademFrom left, Danielle Hearne, Malachi and Stephanie Partington pictured at the Zoo Academ
From left, Danielle Hearne, Malachi and Stephanie Partington pictured at the Zoo Academ

This film follows students at Zoo Academy, an award-winning course that teaches students about animals, while also developing their social and emotional skills.

Malachi, 15, is one of the new recruits. He said: “I had quite a temper in school. I’d see red and I couldn’t calm down. But the teachers, at the Avenue Centre, they’re a lot more understanding, and some of them you have banter with like you would your best friend.”

The Avenue Centre in Luton is one of England’s 338 Pupil Referral Units. PRUs are schools for children unable to be in full time mainstream education either through exclusion or having additional needs.

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Danielle Hearne, who ran the ‘Zoo Academy’ course, said: “It gives those students that haven’t succeeded in school, the opportunity to do something right through to the end, that isn’t measured by academic outcome or exams. Nature is so inspiring.”

Blake Recardo, 18, was inspired to study animal care at college following his time with Zoo Academy and is now volunteering at the zoo to further his aspirations for a career in animal care. He said: “When you’re with animals you treat them differently.”

Stephanie Partington, a teacher at Avenue Centre in Luton, said “Mainstream school just hasn’t suited a lot of our kids, they can’t cope with the big classes. A lot of them have never done these sorts of activities, because they’ve never been trusted to, but this is exactly the sort of activity these children should be doing.”

The episode will be broadcast at 7.30pm on Friday, October 14, on BBC 1. See link here

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