My first two weeks on the project

Before working at CASBA, I had worked at SAtA (Solihull Action through Advocacy) for 10 years. The last project I worked on was the Hidden Lives Remembered project, which is coming to an end now, but gave me a great introduction to oral history and heritage.
On my first day at CASBA, I was feeling sick with nerves, but as soon as I walked through the door everyone was so welcoming and I immediately felt part of the team. My nerves and sick feeling soon went away and I have enjoyed getting to know everyone, and what their work involves. Thank you to all my colleagues for giving your time so I could get to know you and CASBA as a charity better, it has been really helpful.

Jennifer speaking at the Hidden Lives Remembered project launch

I am really enjoying working on the Education is Special project. It is very different to the Hidden Lives Remembered project, where we were researching and recording the history of institutions in Solihull and the stories of the residents and staff. With the Education is Special project, we are working with a group of five children in each of the four special schools in Birmingham: Dame Ellen Pinsent, Fox Hollies, Mayfield and Victoria.We are delivering training to the students, explaining what Oral History is, what we need to do when they are interviewing and using interview clips from the Monyhull project to help with their listening skills.

I’ve already visited Victoria, Fox Hollies and Mayfield, where we have done role play scenarios to practise interviewing each other and thinking of questions to ask when it comes to interviewing staff and pupils about their experiences of special school. After five sessions, the pupils at Victoria are ready to start doing real interviews.

A student being interviewed at Victoria

It has been quite an experience sharing my story with these children and seeing their reactions. I have experience myself of going to special school, I started my school life at Wilson Stuart School, then I went to a Special Unit at a mainstream school. I continued my education in mainstream until I went to Rathbone College a special college for people with disabilities. I loved it at Wilson Stuart school, because I got to go on the same school bus as my brother, who went to Priestly Smith school, which was on the same site. We also had hydrotherapy pools to help exercise our muscles and had a private room for physio during lessons. At mainstream we didn’t have any privacy, a physio would come into school during break time or lunch for my physio and it would be in a side room, where everyone could see through the window of the door.

the word ineducable crossed out

Next year, it will be 50 years since it became law under the Education Act that all children have the right to an education. Before this, parents of children with Learning Disabilities could receive a letter saying, “your child is ineducable”. It is quite surprising that it has only been since 1970, about 14 years before I was born and about 4 years before my brother was born, that it became law. I have faced numerous difficulties in education, I often wonder how children coped before 1970.

I am really looking forward to getting started with the interviews, and meeting lots of other people to hear their stories of special school. It is important that this part of history is always remembered. Not many people are aware that before 1970 children not all children were being educated at school. We need to change that.

Jennifer Brown

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