SURROUNDED by beautiful Japanese maple trees, warm wooden decking and soothing slate, it is hard to believe you are in the middle of an urban secondary school.

Govan High’s latest project gives busy students space to breathe – which is vital for a school working so hard at the heart of its community.

The southside secondary is proud of its commitment to the local area – as well as organising regular clean-ups, its musical pupils perform at nearby care homes and hospitals and many of its students volunteer at Govan charities and support organisations.

“It’s really important to our pupils that they give back to their wider community,” explains Nancy Belford, headteacher.

“We have a number of partnerships on the go, and it’s great experience for the students who want to play an active part in Govan life.”

One of the school’s most recent partnerships was a gardening project with the Trades House of Glasgow’s Incorporation of Gardeners.

“We had a little unused courtyard space, which we wanted to turn into a place pupils could use for relaxation, or just to escape from busy school life,” says Nancy.

“The idea for a Japanese Garden was fantastic, and it was great to work with Incorporation of Gardeners Deacon Bill Peebles on creating it.”

The garden was unveiled officially recently in the presence of the Japanese Consul General Mr Nozomu Takaoka.

Bill Peebles, who presented the hardworking pupils with certificates of achievement, said: “It has taken almost a year to transform the courtyard, previously an abandoned space that had become overgrown and unusable, into this oasis.

“Two of the young people who were involved in shaping this garden are now hoping to do horticulture at college. I hope that this passion for design and gardening continues and they can enjoy it in their careers or leisure.”

Tom McInally, Deacon Convener of the Trades House of Glasgow – and former Govan High pupil – said: “This beautiful garden can be enjoyed by anyone in the school who needs a moment of calm. It is a wonderful initiative that will hopefully be a useful and enjoyable space for years to come.

“This initiative reflects our focus on encouraging young people into skilled craft work and trades that will help them in their future careers.”

Pupils Ross Fairley, Grant McIntosh, Torrin White and Derek Rush all worked on the project.

Ross said: “We had to design the garden from scratch and there were issues with plant roots and rocks, so it was really hard work and frustrating at times. Now that it’s finished, we feel like we have accomplished something important for the school.”

Pupils Jamie McGilp, Mirren Greggory and Karsey McGlinchey are part of the school’s Senior Community Champion group, working in partnership with Possibilities For Each and Every Kid (PEEK) on a pilot Street Play Session being pioneered in Govan.

The young people are undertaking child protection training, volunteer training and play training before starting to volunteer at the new sessions.

Jamie said: “As senior pupils in the school it is important that we lead by example and give something back to our community.”

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Mirren added: “I am looking forward to taking part in the street play sessions. There is a real need in the local community for more for young people to do so I think this is a really good thing.”

As part of the Wider Achievement programme in school Carly Hislop spent some time with patients on the dementia ward at the Davislea Care Home in Govan.

“It was a great experience getting to speak to and play memory games with the patients,” she said. “They really appreciated our visits. Realising that I can talk to anyone has really helped to build my confidence too.”

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Esther Akeju is part of the school band and choir, which often play at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital’s Spinal Unit, the Rangers Charity Foundation dinner, care homes and shopping centres, raising money for a variety of good causes.

“It’s really heart-warming to play at the Spinal Unit as the patients have told us that our visit makes them feel better,” she explains.

“It’s great to get the opportunity to showcase our talent in the local community and to spread a bit of joy and happiness.”

Is your school Streets Ahead? Tell us what you are doing in your community and be part of our community campaign. Funding is available – email for a copy of the grant application form.