BEF Helps New Business With Open Arms
A specialist County Durham learning centre, which specialises in alternative education provision for pupils who find mainstream education challenging, has received a loan to aid development, from lenders The Business Enterprise Fund (BEF).
Open Arms was established in January 2016 by former teacher, Christine and her husband Nick Barratt-Atkin. Based near Bishop Auckland, it welcomes children who are on the verge of exclusion, or for whom mainstream education does not work. As well as providing hands-on activities with a tailored curriculum, the centre also offers maths and English tuition and a horse care qualification. The entrepreneurial duo has built the business from their successful Riding Centre for Special People.
The loan has already been used to buy mountain bikes for the children, as well as laptops and an interactive whiteboard to aid the learning experience in the classroom.
BEF, a social enterprise, recently began lending to businesses in the North East following a 12-year history in Yorkshire. Since its launch, BEF has helped support 3,000 businesses and safeguarded over 2,000 jobs and in 12 months alone has loaned out the total of £6.4m.
BEF Investment Manager Ian Thompson, said: “The Riding Centre for Special People Ltd and Open Arms NE CIC are very commendable businesses and we are pleased to have supported with the funding. Open Arms has such a high value in the local community and we can see it having a positive effect on the pupils’ lives – we’re honoured to have played a part in it.”
Christine said: “We’re thrilled to have received support from BEF. The mountain bikes enable the children to get out and about and exercise which is fantastic for their state of wellbeing. One of our pupils said that he has really enjoyed coming to the centre since we brought in the bikes which is a direct result of the loan; we’ve also noticed an improvement in the overall behaviour, ethos and skillset of the pupils.”
“What has been really crucial though is the laptops and whiteboard we’ve been able to purchase, as these assist us in our abilities to educate the children effectively, in a hands-on way. These facilities, funded by the loan from BEF, prove the centre’s worth to OFSTED too which is hugely valuable for our future.”
Part of the money will also be put towards making the finishing touches to a brand new cabin that has been built to accommodate more clients at the centre, providing two classrooms, a kitchen and additional facilities, while further teaching jobs have also been created.