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Upz and Downz began in October 2011 after Bernard Chick’s son Robert needed to transition from the specialist college that he attended. Bernard researched where Robert would go to next and looked at various day care services in the west Kent area. None of them seemed to offer what Robert needed at that time.
We were very fortunate to find a building in Southborough which catered for our needs and so Upz and Downz was born. We started with just two members of staff and three students. The idea was to provide meaningful and purposeful education with the ultimate goal of finding employment.
For our third year, we were able to offer accredited courses, overseen by West Kent College and we offered qualifications in Catering & Hospitality, Carpentry, Skills for Working Life and PSHE.
Fast forward to 2023 and we now have our own purpose built training centre alongside a community coffee shop. Our centre contains a classroom, kitchen, carpentry workshop and a soon-to-be converted garage which will be our up-cycling furniture studio.
We soon realised that finding meaningful employment for our learners was an uphill struggle and had to find another way to fulfil our mission. Our reason for opening our own coffee shop was so that we could provide our learners with real work experience and an opportunity for some to gain paid employment. Since opening last June, we have four learners undertaking work experience and one now on the pay role.
We operate form 9:15am until 2:45pm, Monday to Thursday. Most of our cohort has been with us for a very long time. We feel that they stay with us because we aim to treat everyone as an individual and offer them a great variety of sessions to suit them, not us.
We provide sessions in carpentry, cooking, up-cycling furniture, jewellery making, mosaics, gardening, bicycle mending and sports, including basketball, rounders, and swimming. We now have our very own football team too. We are very fortunate to have the use of the Tonbridge Angels 3G football pitch, literally on our doorstep and the park which provides space for sports and use of the outdoor gym.
We no longer provide accredited courses as we feel that practical, hands-on learning is where our learners can excel. We love that they can achieve a sense of pride and fulfilment in their own finished products and they love that too.
Upz & Downz is a non-profit Community Interest Company and we do our best to provide a varied and enjoyable environment for our students. We have also taken day trips to venues such as Winter Wonderland, Tate Modern, Greenwich River Boat Cruise, Swattenden Outdoor Activity Centre, Tenterden Steam Railway, Folkstone and Hastings.
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