From the classroom to a Derry shopping centre

A range of the pupils' coursework on display in the shop unit.
Image caption A range of the GCSE and A-level coursework on display in the shop unit.

It used to sell diamond rings and gold necklaces, but that was before the pupils at St Mary's College in Londonderry moved in.

The secondary school spotted an opportunity when a jewellers in one of the city's largest shopping centres closed its doors.

They asked the manager of the Richmond Centre if they could take over the unit and he agreed.

The glass display cabinets are now full of handcrafted children's toys which were all designed and built by GCSE and A-level technology students.

Lauren Doherty's triangular activity centre is one of more than a dozen projects on display.

"A lot of people tell me they've seen my work and say it is brilliant," she said.

"I feel very proud. Now the public can see just how good our school is when it comes to design and technology."

The pupils have also put on display the design work and plans for each project.

Seanine Hasson built a foldable activity centre for her GCSE coursework.

"It's based on numeracy and literacy and helps children learn their name, shapes, numbers and even teaches them how to count.

"I never thought for one minute my work would go on display in this shopping centre."

Pride and ownership

Technology teacher Gavin Molloy said it was a great idea.

"We've had lots of visitors in the school this year, including the Education Minister John O'Dowd and they all said the work was really good.

"A colleague approached the manager of the Richmond Centre and he said he had the perfect unit for us.

"We sit back and look at the work all year and almost become complacent. Now the public can see it and it gives the pupils a sense of pride and ownership."

Gavin said it had caught the eye of many shoppers.

Image caption Seanine Hasson is one of the proud pupils whose work is on display

"Whenever we were putting the pieces into the display cabinet, a member of the public approached us and asked us how much the items cost and when they would be going on sale.

"That's a great credit to the work of the pupils which is outstanding."

Lauren Doherty's mum Frances said she was proud to see her daughter's work on display.

"The quality of this work is so good that it's something you'd expect to see for sale in Harrods in London," she said.

"A child's toy is like a family heirloom. It's passed down and what you have here will never fall apart."