All aboard the Blue Tangerine Café for vital work experience

Some of the youngsters who work in the Blue Tangerine Café.

Some of the youngsters who work in the Blue Tangerine Café. - Credit: Blue Tangerine Café.

A new catering venture has been set up to help pupils with complex mental health and learning difficulties to thrive in the mainstream world.

The Blue Tangerine Café is a mobile café run by young people with a wide range of special educational needs who attend one of the schools within The Blue Tangerine Federation.

Based out of St Luke's School in Redbourn, the initiative will provide pupils with transferrable and employable skills such as food hygiene, barista training money handling and stock control.

The Blue Tangerine van.

The Blue Tangerine van. - Credit: Blue Tangerine Café

Rhea Dickman, head of fundraising and trustee, said: "The main reason behind the café is to offer our pupils crucial work experience opportunities that they would otherwise miss out on.

"Not only is it providing them with accredited qualifications but it is giving them transferrable and employability skills, such as gaining confidence in speaking to members of the public. We want to give them as much opportunity to succeed in our mainstream world."

All profits generated are used to buy resources and equipment that enable pupils to access life in and beyond the classroom.

Some of the youngsters who have been employed by the café have explained how it benefited them.

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Jess, 16, a pupil of St Luke's, said: "It has given me work experience and confidence to speak to people."

Fellow pupil Eddie, 15, added: "The barista training has made me think about getting work in places like Starbucks and Costa during my time at college."

Fifteen-year-old Connor, from nearby The Collett School, said: "I have been working in the horsebox for almost a year now and I have learnt lots of things, using a till and serving customers.

"I have got a certificate in barista and food hygiene. I really enjoy doing this and it will help me in my future."

They are also selling a range of teas, coffees and hot chocolate via their online shop, and taking the café to local businesses and events.