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Mural Created By Macaulay College Students & Staff, Photograph By Rachel Bibby 58 ° North Photography

Macaulay College

Isle of Lewis not-for-profit business provides life-changing supported learning experiences

As a small social enterprise that has grown steadily, we have a significant impact on our local community.
Roland Engebretsen , director, Macaulay College
Ann & Solas The Eriskay Pony. Photographer Sarah Emsall.

Freedom and space to grow confidence and self-belief

Macaulay College is a community interest company based on 120 acres of family farm on the Lochs Road outside Stornoway. Set up 12 years ago by directors Roland Engebretsen and Rebecca Lindsay, the College provides unique local services for people from across Harris and Lewis with additional and social needs.

The students, who range from school age to adults, can access a broad range of opportunities designed around their individual skills and requirements. For the majority it provides a long term option supporting a happy and productive lifestyle. For some the service is a stepping stone to further education or employment.

Learning options include animal care - the farm is home to pigs, goats, sheep, donkeys, chickens and more. There are horticulture activities in the polytunnel, creativity through arts and crafts, as well as life skills including enterprise - selling the farm eggs, and making jams and chutneys. There is also support for students to attend Lews Castle College, workplaces, and social and community events.

In addition to the weekday provision, there are 1-to-1 services which can operate seven days a week.

Having grown steadily over the years, there are plans to expand to meet additional local needs in the community. The business now has a staff of 11 full time equivalent posts.

Seumas & Ethan Looking After The Polytunnels. Photographer Alexandra Macleay.

Looking to the future at Macaulay College

Macaulay College's supported clients are referred through the social work and education departments. In addition to this income, the business has secured funding from a range of partners, and is grateful for the support of local volunteers. They've seen growth funding from:

  • Business Gateway which has helped with building improvements and electric connection further up the farm;
  • the NHS and SLCF for an accessible toilet;
  • Loganair for solar panels;
  • the Charities Aid Foundation and National Lottery Communities Fund for two timber buildings during lockdown;
  • Scottish Government Adapt & Thrive Funding for a one year development worker post.

At HIE we've been helping Macaulay College with their plans for the future. We've supported the development officer post with our Pathfinder programme. We've also provided specialist business advice to review their business model and strategy.

Since we started working with HIE there’s been a chain reaction taking us forward in directions we hadn’t foreseen. The specialist support has helped us focus on what's needed and how to pursue that.
Jo-Ann McConnachie, development worker, Macaulay College
artist impression of rewilding centre

What are the benefits of Pathfinder

Pathfinder is a HIE programme which helps entrepreneurs to accelerate their business ideas.  Macaulay College development worker Jo-Ann took part to explore opportunities to develop new gift products unique to the farm, its setting and the students' art work. Involvement encouraged the business to push forward on their first product - Jimmy the donkey Christmas jumpers.

Jo-Ann is now in discussion with Interface about a collaboration with Scottish Universities and Colleges Design students who might support product development ideas.

Find out Pathfinder can help you

What's Next?

The College is ready to expand to meet the needs of the community and is looking for widespread support to achieve this. It sees an opportunity to support the next generation of young people, to reach those who aren’t being supported at present but who would benefit, and to expand the range of services on offer.

They currently have an application in with the Scottish Government Investing in Communities Fund to support three key roles for the next three years - their development worker, a community engagement worker, and a farm worker manager.

A priority is to find funding for a building extension - which they see as an essential next step. Prior to lockdown the extension, which already has planning permission, was estimated at £266K+. Recent increases in prices will inevitably mean it will cost more. 

Having a purpose-built facility, that is fit for purpose would make an enormous difference to the students. The extension would allow for future growth, and provide flexible, warm and bright facilities. 

Other areas for development include exploring suitable awards systems for students, additional infrastructure to develop Macaulay Farm as a community venue, and developing additional services both at the Farm and through outreach.

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