Mabel Prichard School installs new play area thanks to lottery grant

A SCHOOL for children and young people with learning difficulties has opened a new play area which it says will greatly help with students’ development.

Mabel Prichard Special School in Cuddesdon Way, Blackbird Leys, was given a £10,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund to help them pay for the new equipment which was installed over the Easter holidays.

It replaces a previous climbing frame which had to be taken down last year and is already having a positive impact, according to Gayle Didcock, the foundation and key stage one manager.

She said: “Our old climbing area was not fit for purpose, it was old and dangerous and needed to be removed in September, leaving our younger children without any equipment.

“We are a school caring for children with severe and complex needs and not having this sort of equipment, we could not give them the outdoors parts of the curriculum they should have.

“As with all children, being able to climb is great for their physical development but also for problem solving and learning how to be more independent.”

Along with the climbing frame, the school has purchased chalk boards and white boards for outside use to allow the children to express themselves.

The school, which caters for pupils between 2 and 19, is planning to work with close neighbours Orchard Meadow Primary School to share access to the new area and will hold a celebration in a few weeks to mark the successful installation.

Children have been using the equipment, which includes rope ladders, slides and wooden stairs, since returning from the Easter break this week.

Ms Didcock added: “It has already been so positive to see the difference it has made and to watch them problem solving.

“I watched a young student find it difficult to climb up but a day later he was able to do it and go down the slide, it was a fantastic moment to celebrate.

“It has had an immediate impact.”

The school is now looking to fundraise for future projects to continue to expand its outdoor play options including installing a grass area.

Climbing equipment used by older children has also suffered from wear and tear and now needs to be replaced.

Mabel Prichard School hosts its very own ‘Royal wedding’

Students at Mabel Prichard School marked today’s union between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle by hosting their very own mock wedding taken by a real vicar.

The special school in Blackbird Leys saw the occasion as a chance to teach students about the institution of marriage and socialising.

It hosted an outdoor ceremony yesterday taken by Reverend Heather Carter of nearby Church Of The Holy Family, with 17-year-old pupils Leonna and Matthew as the bride and groom.

Headteacher Lucy Wawrzyniak said: “It was beautiful - we even had a pianist.

“It was done very much with the intention of teaching students social skills and about events they will take part in through their lives.”

Ofsted says schools must teach ‘fundamental British values’, and Ms Wawrzyniak said the event was full of learning opportunities.

Six bridesmaids and three pageboys trailed Leonna, who is from Blackbird Leys.

She was accompanied down the aisle by Key Stage 3 teacher Bob Houghton who wore a Mad Hatter-esque hat.

Instead of inviting the groom to kiss the bride following the traditional vows, the vicar announced: “You may now high five the bride."

The school in Cuddesdon Way educates children aged two to 19 with severe learning difficulties.

Ms Wawrzyniak said: “Students can find change in routine very difficult, so the more we can teach them about certain situations in a safe setting, the better.

“All the primary school students came [to the upper school] which was a break in their routine and a completely different venue for them.

“There was also the socialising with the party after.”

About 100 guests including staff, pupils and parents applauded as the pair ‘married’, then enjoyed a tea party with a top table, and the official opening of the school’s new sensory garden.

A fruitcake centrepiece was made and donated by Michelle Robbins, and the carpet for the aisle was donated by Carpets 4 Less in Cowley.

There was also a performance and lessons by drummer Natty Mark Samuels.

Joe Austin Florist, The Garden, Bicycle Blooms and ALJ Florist provided flowers.

Higher level teaching assistant Annie Hawkins, who co-organised the day, said: “The whole community pulled together to make this happen.

“We teach through practical activities whenever we can and try to make our teaching as fun as possible.”