THE FIRST Rural Enterprise Academy in the country has opened its doors near Penkridge.
The new school, set in the grounds of South Staffordshire College’s Rodbaston Campus, is open to students from the age of 14 and aims to help students develop the skills needed by rural, environmental and land-based industries alongside the GCSE curriculum found at other schools.
The students can also take part in extra-curricular activities including horse riding, floristry, zoo training, horticulture club and a range of countryside and conservation pastimes.
South Staffordshire College has joined forces with the NFU and environmental firm Veolia to develop the newly-built academy.
Stafford farmer Andrew Collier, NFU county chairman, said: “Security of food supply, thriving rural businesses and opportunities for new people to get on the farming ladder are essential for the future.
“Developing and encouraging the next generation of business leaders and rural entrepreneurs is vital and I am delighted the NFU is supporting the Rural Enterprise Academy.
“There is a skills gap which the new academy will help to plug and I can’t over emphasise the importance of getting well trained, ready to work employees into agriculture and horticulture.
“We wish the first cohort all the best in their studies and hope the academy goes from strength to strength.”
Graham Morley, chief executive principal at South Staffordshire College, was the man behind the idea.
He said: “Our close working relationship with the land-based and rural sectors highlighted the need for a new school that teaches a wide range of subjects but with an environmental specialism.
"In addition the college was being approached by many young people who wanted to come to us early.
“The Rural Enterprise Academy has therefore been built to meet that growing demand.
"The NFU and Veolia shared the same vision to develop students who are ready to work in the sector and together we are proud to have established this new educational venture.”
The academy may have opened less than a month ago, but students are already giving it the thumbs-up.
Jemma Stanaway, 14, said that she has wanted to work with animals ever since she was young and the new school seemed like a great opportunity.
“At my other school it could be boring constantly being in the classroom but at this school there is a really good mix and that helps you retain knowledge.”