I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at Victoria School for my first session. I had a few ideas about what to do, but wanted to be very responsive to the needs to the group. In the end, four of the five kids were there along with Teaching Assistant Barry and I was left in charge to run the session as I saw fit. We had an hour and a half to get to know each other and talk about what we’re going to achieve over the next year.
The rest of the class went with class teacher Simon to Northfield for travel training and to do some shopping for ingredients to make some kind of spicy Mexican dish tomorrow. It seems that they certainly have adventurous taste buds!
The classroom was large and there was plenty of space, as is required for wheelchair users. It all felt very informal and completely different to the kinds of classrooms I remember at Secondary school. We began by talking about Monyhull Hospital and the previous project. I showed them the video we made, which made quite an impact on them.
This led to a wide-ranging discussion on the history of people with Learning Disabilities, people’s attitudes towards disability, the issues they’ve faced personally, how they came to be at the school and how things have changed there.
We also spoke about what their roles in the project will be, who will have access to the information they find out and what messages they want to put out. Next week, we’ll start training them up to do oral history interviewing.
One of their clearest messages was that they want employers to see how capable they are and that you should focus on what people can do, rather than what they can’t. The statistic that only 6% of people with a Learning Disability are in paid employment should shock everyone. These special school pupils are fiercely determined to show how appalling that is and prove just what they can do by making this project a massive success!