PUPILS with profound learning difficulties celebrated a year since the successful launch of their very own charity store yesterday.

For the past 12 months, Uplands School’s 120 students have been running The Shop, a small second-hand boutique set up to help them learn valuable skills and gain hands-on experience in the workplace.

Since its inauguration the store, based in Redhouse, has proven not only a useful resource for the children but a great asset to the community – so much so that executive headteacher Jackie Smith is now contemplating opening a second charity shop.

Around 30 teenagers turned hard-working shop assistants marked the milestone anniversary with a cheeky slice of cake yesterday – but only during their break.

Jackie said The Shop’s first year had gone by in a flash.

“It seems to have gone so fast,” she said. “It is unbelievable that only a year ago we were doing all the renovation.

“The young people come here every day. The beauty of the shop is that it’s a real retail environment with real customers. It’s not simulated.

“They love it. They want to be employable and they want to make a contribution to society. Some of our autistic pupils like to see that everything is colour-coded and neat because they like order.”

She added: “We are hoping that some of them will learn skills that will help them get work and important people skills.

“It has become an asset to the community and we are now looking for a second location.”

The pupils’ roles include meeting the public, sorting out goods, handling money, cleaning and arranging window displays. They also serve tea and coffee to customers. Many have shown remarkable people skills and found themselves at home approaching shoppers and advising them.

Teaching assistant Barbara Lenderyou manages The Shop and supervises the students. She ensures that each task allocated is tailored to their particular ability.

She said: “I’ve been very impressed. Some of them are very good with customers. They chat with people, approach them and ask if they can help them. It has really helped with their confidence. It’s a fantastic way of learning life skills.”

Ricky Fitchett, 18, has enjoyed shift work immensely.

“It has been fun,” he said. “I’ve been working on everything. I really enjoy it.”

The Shop, which is owned by The Uplands Educational Trust at Uplands School, is open from 10am-4pm on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 10am-2.30pm on Tuesday and 11am-3pm on Saturday.