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Teachers and pupils at Harlow’s Aspire Academy were all smiles this morning (WEDS) after big-hearted housebuilder Crest Nicholson gifted them a brand new Variety Sunshine Coach.

Crest Nicholson Managing Director Peter Diffley visited the Essex Academy to hand over the keys to delighted Principal Deborah Garfield.

The special minibus will benefit the pupils of the Alternative Provision School for children and young people aged 4-16 who haven`t succeeded in mainstream education for a variety of reasons and have a wide range of needs including social, emotional or behavioural difficulties.

Up until today, the school had been relying on local community and public transport to get pupils around since opening in September. But from now on, the new minibus will be used five days a week to take students to various educational, cultural and sporting events, community projects and therapeutic sessions.

Crest Nicholson has been supporting children’s charity Variety since 2005 and in that time the Group has raised more than half a million pounds and provided Sunshine Coaches to schools across the country – with today marking the sixteenth vehicle it has given away.

Variety’s Head of Corporate Fundraising Mike Haszko and Sunshine Coaches Committee Member Julie Banes were also present for the presentation this morning.

Variety’s Mike Haszko commented: "Since 2005, Crest Nicholson has been a model corporate supporter of Variety and has immeasurably improved the lives of many thousands of thousands of disabled and disadvantaged children and young people.  We receive no Government funding and are entirely reliant upon the support of wonderful companies such as Crest Nicholson".

Crest Nicholson’s Peter Diffley said: “Crest Nicholson is proud and delighted to be donating this new Variety Sunshine Coach to the Aspire Academy."

"We know from experience what a huge impact these minibuses have on the lives of the children and young people at the schools who need them and this morning it has been incredible to see the fundraising work of our staff, suppliers, contractors and stakeholders across the business paying off in such a wonderful way.”

Academy Principal Deb Garfield said: “We are always telling our pupils how special and valued they are, and to finally be driving them around in a brand new minibus is a huge boost to their self-esteem and confidence.  Thanks to this donation we are already re-writing our curriculum to feed in more opportunities for our pupils to experience the wider world and raise their aspirations for their own futures.  This is something we couldn’t do before.”

Academy pupils Alyshia Gould and Kai Challis-Tarling – both Year 11 pupils – gave a ‘thank you’ presentation to Crest Nicholson and the Variety Charity during the handover, alongside Year Four pupil Alexia Armstrong and Thomas Sabbarton from Year Six.

Head Girl Alyshia said: “On behalf of the pupils of Aspire Academy, thank you to Crest Nicholson and the Variety Club for helping us to realise our dream of having our own minibus. It will allow us to explore our town, our county and our country further and experience more of life so we can see the many options that are open to us outside of our school.”

And Head Boy Kai added: “We will be able to go to Forest Schools where they receive nurture and education at the same time, but in the wild outdoor wilderness of Essex!"

“The only downside of all of this is that Ms Garfield is also intending to use it to hurry out of bed the usual latecomers in order to support them in getting into school on time in the mornings.  Luckily, this won’t affect me as I’m always on time!”