Although 2020 has been a very difficult year, we have had lots of highlights on the project. As we have been putting together the materials to tell the stories we collected, I thought it would be a good time to share my favourite memories.
Before the lockdown, we really enjoyed working with the schools, going every week to see the students. That was my favourite part of the project because I could help the students to develop their skills in oral history recording and we really saw their confidence grow. They should all have a sense of achievement from what we did together.
I really enjoyed going into the schools on my own because having a Learning Disability myself, I feel it gives the students inspiration that they can do a job like me and work on their own. Also, it gives me a sense of achievement that I have been able to plan and carry out a school session without someone there.
We interviewed over 70 people and have heard lots of fascinating stories from past and present students, staff, and parents about how school life has changed. Listening to these stories, you can get a good idea how the attitudes, both within schools and outside them, have changed over the last 50 years. There have been some shocking stories about the public’s reaction when they took the pupils out, which show some people don’t recognise the students’ right to live, let alone have an education. Sadly, I don’t feel people’s views of disabilities have changed that much over the last 50 years.
We’re now collecting students’ stories on lockdown, and their experiences over the last few months, to hear how their home and school life have been affected. We think it’s really important to document this for future historians! We are keeping in touch with the students remotely, so they can continue planning their ideas for the celebration event. It is essential for them to still be involved in the project, as it is theirs!
Joe and I have been putting the magazine together and are looking to the future, thinking of ways to put the celebration event together, so that everyone can be involved. We can’t wait to share all the stories we’ve collected with more people.
It has been a real privilege sharing the past year with wonderful students. They have all worked so hard, have achieved so much and gained new skills to take with them to college, or to put on their CV when applying for a job. Thank you to everyone at Victoria, Dame Ellen, Fox Hollies and Mayfield for sharing your stories and working with us on our Education is Special project. We have really loved working with you on this project and we couldn’t have done it without you!