Taking bread to Baskerville

Baskerville School in Harborne is a day and residential secondary school for students on the autism spectrum. It’s a great school with wonderful staff working with some amazing kids.

They got in touch with us earlier in the year about taking a student on work experience for a week or so. One of their goals is preparing their students for life after school, so getting experience of the wild and weird world of work is key.

Unfortunately we haven’t been able to take placements due to the pandemic. We plan to start again soon, but in the meanwhile were keen to get involved in whatever way we could.

We’ve been thinking a lot about how to make our cookery school more accessible, bringing our knowledge to more than just those who can afford it. We’ve also been thinking about how we can share what we know about the business of bread, from sourcing the grain to running a bakery. We’re always happy to pass on advice ad hoc but something more sustainable and long-term is the goal.

Since we opened we’ve had groups from Stirchley Primary School visit the bakery to make a big mess with dough – sorry, to learn how bread is made – and we’re looking forward to starting that again next year. We’re now thinking that this piece of “community engagement” could become part of our actual business, working with teachers to bring our classes into schools on a professional basis. We know we can do it – we just need a toe in the door.

So while we couldn’t take placements from Baskerville, we could bring the bakery to them for a morning. So last Thursday Martha took a sack of flour to Baskerville’s kitchen classroom for a four-hour workshop.

Martha started the session by talking about how bread is made from flour, yeast, salt, water and time. She also discussed how we manage making hundreds of loaves in a bakery by working as a team, from mixing the dough to selling to the customers.

They then had a go at mixing their own dough, savoury and sweet. A pizza was made from scratch along with bread rolls and cinnamon buns. One of the students was determined to master baguettes with amazing results.

And then, of course, they ate everything as a group – the best part of any cookery class!

Next Thursday the group will be visiting us for an hour to see what a busy bakery is like and what other jobs go on behind the scenes. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll be eating bread made by Baskerville alumni.

This is certainly something we intend to do again, both at Baskerville and at other schools in Birmingham. If you’re a teacher interested in Loaf visiting you, or know how we can best contact schools, please do get in touch.

While we got a warm glow and the sense of a job well done, this was incredibly valuable for the students. There’s only so much the Baskerville staff can do in the school environment. Short work placements, often for a week or so, help students develop an understanding of their potential place in a world that doesn’t always make sense to them.

Taking an autistic student placement can be a bit daunting for a business, especially if you have no experience with the neurodiverse, but Baskerville is a very supportive school and they’ll be with you all the way. And trust us, these are great kids.

Julie Heidarinia is the works skills coach at Baskerville who looks after placements and you can contact her here.