From the outside The School House Restaurant looks like any other tasteful country pub so opening the door you’re slightly unprepared for the beautifully decorated modern restaurant that you encounter inside. While taking in the lively décor at the venue in South Normanton’s Church Street you’re then greeted by the engaging, charming and friendly Dan who will ensure you get to your seat.
The restaurant recently opened again for business after spending some time off the market but has quickly become a hit with locals and the general public alike. It’s a story that in some respects mirrors Dan’s own journey – who is receiving support from Portland College to access an internship at the restaurant.
He said “I applied to come to Portland last year because I was having some mental health difficulties.
“I was in mainstream education at further education level at the time but I decided that coming out of mainstream and into specialist education to slow down and get myself sorted was better”.
He decided to study hospitality and catering and, following a level two cookery course, also completed an internship in the college’s professional canteen, serving 100s of learners.
The stars aligned for Dan when during a chance visit Portland’s Job Coach, Deana met the School House’s new owner Sophie Cuthbertson who had just purchased and renovated the ailing business. Sophie agreed to interview Dan for a six month internship role at the business and - although Dan says he was a little nervous during the interview - agreed to take him on.
She said: “Deana explained it so well though that we ended up looking forward to it and it’s been really good and actually quite fun…we’ve all enjoyed it.
“I wasn’t concerned about taking Dan on but the business is very new and so there were the standard worries about having a new person join the team. What actually happened was that showing a new member of staff round really helps you step back and see the whole picture… so it’s been helpful for me as well”.
Dan started on 19th January and has been supported by Deana for around six weeks in the internship, learning a variety of roles at the business including stock taking, front of house and working in the kitchen.
The 18 year old says he already feels that the job has had a transformative effect on his life. He said: “6 months ago when I started at college I was a completely different person. I was very reluctant to talk to people or ask for help but coming out and getting experience in a normal working environment has bolstered my confidence and made me think about potentially getting back to full time work at my own pace. The staff have been absolutely incredible and so supportive and they’ve really let me get on with every aspect of the business.
“They’re just so laid back and so funny and its lovely to come here… this has given me a new lease of life”.