Cornerstone’ Learning and Training Centre runs a joinery project that is inclusive of young people 12 to 18 who are ambitious to rejoin in learning, participation and reengagement with the state education system while building self worth, confidence and aspiration to succeed as part of a team.

Cornerstone is a homelessness charity and works to end homelessness through education, support and collective community effort.

It is the experience of the charity that those young people who do not engage with education are at considerable risk of becoming homeless as an adult and as a result.

Cornerstone began this project to engage with those young people not engaging with the school system. The charity works proactively with those young people to educate on the issues that can lead to homelessness while increasing equality of opportunity for young people with an alternative form of education in an alternative environment.

Cornerstone has observed that more than 80% of homeless adults it has housed did not engage with the education system. As a result of a lack of education, the homeless adults had endured increased exposure to a multitude of social and economic inequalities since childhood that included joblessness, debt and low income, drug and alcohol misuse and health problems.


At present our attendance rate is 86 per cent based over a period of two years and 97 young people engaged. Previous to arriving at Cornerstone, most pupils were struggling with school attendances of 0 to six per cent.

All of our staff and volunteers have achieved minimum Level 2 with the majority at Level 3 Safeguarding Process Training provided by Durham Local Safeguarding Children Board. They are also all First Aid trained and managers hold current IOSH Safe Working Practices certifcates at minimum Level 3.

The environment in which we teach is a purpose-built factory unit supported by a classroom and IT suite onsite. At any one time there will be no more than seven young people in the unit.

The young people help the staff to build garden furniture and small garden products that are sold at the charity’s sales retail outlets. agricultural shows and on this website.

The factory feel to the project encourages team work and, as part of that team, young people gain in self worth and esteem as they increase their contribution.

Pupils are given projects to design, build and manage to delivery to their clients as a business venture. 

We find that pupils referred to us thrive in the more adult environment of the factory. Many come from backgrounds where they have had to ‘grow up’ faster than their peers and thus find it hard to relate to a classroom environment.


For example, pupils in the past were asked to build a large log store for one client and a sleigh for Santa to another. The young people split into two groups. They then (always under supervision) met with their client to work on a design and work out what and how many materials they would need before producing a quotation.

The pupils worked together to manage their workloads and produce a schedule of work which included a description of their roles in the project and their responsibilities.

Once built the young people were asked to organise any media awareness and press releases needed to promote their work and the charity’s. They also organised distribution and installation of the products and produced invoices for the clients.

At all stages staff work to weave academic skills with particular emphasis on mathematics and English language into the stages of the project. Angles and rule measurements for instance in cutting timber, the difference between imperial and metric etc.

Written and verbal communications with the client and within the project are used to introduce English language and IT skills. Students are also encouraged to complete a volunteer diary as a means for them to reflect on their progress from day one to completion. 

We encourage the customer whether they are a private individual, a company or local authority to meet the young people and appreciate what they can achieve when placed in an environment they feel suited to and an important part of. Positive customer feedback contributes to a building of self worth and self esteem.


As all parents and teachers will know, you learn more about what is going on in the life of a child when chatting doing washing up together or side by side in the car than in a direct face-to-face discussion. The same is true of working on a joinery project.

Cornerstone keeps its pupil numbers low to allow our workshop instructors work to get to know each child well and build a rapport. Once the trust is formed, instructors work to establish the needs of the child and identify what support is needed. Over the following weeks the instructor leads by example while staying sensitive and alert to the needs and ability of the child.


Our goal is to reengage and demonstrate to young people practical and good reasons to achieving their GCSE qualifications through the state education system. and follow further education in the appropriate areas for them enabling them to control and shape their career development and life in general.

Cornerstone in some cases offers ASDAN accreditation in Short Course Volunteering as well as in-house certificates for projects completed.

Our in-house certificates are of significant value as they stand as a reference to future potential employers who are interested as to how the young individual performs in a work environment. Future employers will also have a point of contact on the certificate should they require a less formal appraisal of the bearer’s abilities.


Jeff Malpas – Workshop andAP manager 01388 747892

Steve Vasey – Chief Executive 07971516915