The school that builds hope, self-esteem and futures

The marquee had an extension for Founder’s Day this year. Our first end of summer term Prize Day came in July 2008, (I wrote about one of our early ones here, a year after I started this blog).

Emilie
Emilie

We have both expanded significantly since then, SNJ from a small now and then blog, and More House School from when all the parents, boys and staff all fit neatly into one Marquee about 100x 50ft at Founder's Day.

This year, after a few years of makeshift add-on shelters, they've finally taken the plunge and erected a second Marquee of the same size as the main one. Two of the teachers got married there the next day. It seems to be an occupational hazard at More House.

One mum, Emilie, I have known for some time, since she was an emotional parent at the NAS local coffee morning held in my conservatory. Her Asperger’s son was struggling as a result of poor SEN help in his highly-sought after school.  Today, Emilie (shown in the picture) is emotional for a different reason. Her son, now a More House pupil, is thriving as the happy child she always knew he was. Emilie herself is relieved and happy and has been welcomed as a More House parent as much as her son has been as a student.

The morning is always long, hot and emotional. It is lightened by the hilarious Scot Mr Yeoman, teacher of English, as he MCs the annual auction. It's a chance to relieve the wealthy parental contingent of a bit of their disposable income to aid the school's next round of building work.

This followed a poem he had written and recited mentioning every year 11 boy and staff member for whom this was their last day. Mr Yeoman is my younger son's English teacher who has nurtured his "uniquely" genius turn of phrase, while trying to keep him "harnessed to the yoke of GCSE English".

Here Son2 is earlier this week reciting his own topical poem, Suarez in love, with a delivery remarkably like Mr Yeoman’s own..

This year is the school’s 75th anniversary, and most fitting that earlier this year our brilliant Head Master, Barry Huggett, added a much-deserved OBE to the end of his name. The chair of governors asked for a round of applause, but everyone there decided an impromptu standing ovation was required. Mr Huggett is also chair of the SEND section of the Independent Schools Council and has influenced SEN development across the country.

Helping my boys get an education at MHS is my greatest achievement other than giving birth it to them in the first place.  The school, a circus in an early incarnation, has just added a School of Engineering and a new Chapel and will soon be adding a fitness suite and other improvements.

One of the most interesting developments is that More House is building, bankrolled by a commercial company, an MHS outpost in Dubai. It is intended that as well as helping children there in the MHS ethos, it will raise money for the school to use towards building other schools in this country in its own image, something badly needed.  One of the outgoing Deputy Head Boys put it simply: "More House saves people.".

A worrying development, however, is that the September intake contains far fewer boys funded by local authorities via statements. If those boys are now finding a suitable education in mainstream then great, but if this is a sign that fewer boys are managing to get funding to attend, it will end up that only those families who can afford to pay for a specialist education for their special needs sons will be able to access it.

This year is especially emotional for me as Son1, Luca, is leaving to head to Sixth Form college to study a clutch of a levels including Music, his passion. How the FE college will handle the switch from no statutory support to the EHCP will be interesting -  and with me as a parent, it's to be hoped they do it well as I will be watching. And of course I will always be willing to offer my own expertise should they wish to be sensible and include parents in their changes, as they are supposed to.   Either way of course, I'll be writing about it.

Luca has gone from an explosive boy to a handsome, often bearded, charming young man, helpful and good company. He's still explosive on the odd occasion,  as most sixteen year olds are and of course his autism still affects him every day. But he knows how to apologise for a blow up and move on, something that many others could learn from.

MHS - founder's days
Luca, me & Giorgio at Founder's Day

So, a happy summer to all parents, staff and boys from More House. Most thanks to Mr Huggett for giving my boys the well rounded and stable launch pad for a successful future

I will leave you with a clip of the speech from the outgoing School Captain, Sam Halligan whose speech brought a tear to many an eye, including my own. I urge you to listen to it because it encapsulates beautifully why an education that is personalised, differentiated and forward thinking is vital.

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Tania Tirraoro

Founder, CEO at Special Needs Jungle
Founder of Special Needs Jungle. Parent of two young adults with autism. Tania is a member of the Whole School SEND Expert Reference Group for SEND Leadership, the Ofsted SEND Inspections Stakeholders Group, and sits on the Advisory Board of the Royal Holloway, University of London Centre of Gene and Cell Therapy.
She is also an experienced broadcast and print journalist & author. Tania also runs a PR, web & social media consultancy, SocialOro Media. She is a Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate with Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
Tania Tirraoro
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