Focus on The Lady Adrian School
On the north side of the village, the Lady Adrian School is a new addition to the educational diversity of Girton - even though few if any children from the village attend. The school is however a part of a Cambridge tradition that stems back nearly fifty years as a community special school for those aged 7 to 16. Its name derives from Lady Hester Adrian, a noted national figure in the mental health and welfare field, who was chairman of the Special Schools Sub-committee of the Cambridge City Council when the school was founded. It opened in May 1960, and meets the educational needs of children from Cambridgeshire and parts of Suffolk and Essex. Initially in Courtney Way, it moved to Girton in September 2004, occupying the former Littleton House School premises, while building takes place on the former Lady Adrian site.
The prime mission of the school is to "provide a rich and stimulating environment that will meet the needs of pupils with moderate learning difficulties and more complex needs". It aims to "provide every pupil with the basic skills which will enable them to achieve the maximum of his or her potential". Far from being a daunting place apart, Lady Adrian School has a vibrant, welcoming and dynamic ambiance and prides itself on making a distinctive and integrated contribution to the range of educational provision in Cambridge.
For a visitor, the first surprise is that pupils follow an almost-full National Curriculum, focusing on the core subjects and supplemented by vocational studies. The Primary Department promotes a supportive atmosphere with a varied multi-sensory curriculum. This then leads to the opportunity to achieve high standards across the range of examination subjects. SATs results are impressive within the field of special needs. Additionally pupils gain Certificates of Achievement and National Skills Profiles, and take selected subjects for several examination boards. Completing the range of qualifications, some pupils take GCSEs, notably in Art and Mathematics. But pupils' achievements are not only academic. Drama and Art particularly flourish, and the teaching of other cultures across the curriculum has helped in securing International School status. Physical Education plays a large part in the life of the school, which has gained Sports Mark status.
How is all this success achieved in a special needs school? Undoubtedly a high staff-pupil ratio helps. For a roll of up to 135 pupils, there are thirteen full-time teachers plus six part-time teachers, 22 teaching assistants, four administration staff, and five support staff. Up to January 2006, leadership was given by the Headteacher, Mrs Kim Taylor. Expertise is also available from Cambridgeshire Local Education Authority (LEA) consultants, advisers and specialists (for instance in careers, medical or psychological areas), and one of the County Speech Therapists is based at the school.
But the key factor clearly is the knowledge, skill, enthusiasm, imagination and dedication of the staff at all levels. The school as a whole is a conspicuously cohesive and supportive learning community. Each pupil is taught in a class of 10 to 12 maximum of similar age, and benefits from an Individual Education Plan which is regularly reviewed personally and with parents. In this way the National Curriculum can be modified and differentiated to meet each individual's needs and stage of development. This high level of personal focus and attention aids immensely in building self-confidence and discovering each pupil's preferred learning style and pace.
The Lady Adrian School has its own 11-member Board of Governors. With representatives from parents (4), staff (2), the LEA (3) and the community (2), it is a hands-on committed group, chaired by Mrs Barbara Bell. The annual funding for 2005/6 is £1.3 million, and in the past voluntary fund-raising has also contributed considerably. The professional development of all the staff at Lady Adrian School is given much emphasis, and the cross-fertilisation with linked schools and colleges in Cambridgeshire is a constant activity of mutual benefit and inclusion.
On leaving, where do pupils progress? Most continue with further vocational studies, notably at Cambridge Regional College, with an aim to gaining employment in retailing, technology, hotels and catering, animal husbandry, or personal and social services. The fact that many gain the necessary skills as well as the confidence to enter the world of work effectively and fully is a tribute to the care and expertise of all the school's staff.
But a sad epilogue. In July 2006, Lady Adrian School will close its doors not only in Girton, but for the last time. The provisions for special education are always changing, and the Cambridgeshire LEA is concentrating its four special schools into two new schools, catering for the more broadly-based special needs of the 2 to 19 age group. Pupils and staff will transfer to the new Castle School in Courtney Way or to the Granta School in Linton. So their admirable energies, talents and enthusiasm will be directed to new challenges and opportunities. We can be sure that they will continue their excellent work.
Address: Oakington Road, Girton, Cambridge CB3 0QL
Telephone: 01223 - 508793
'Focus on Girton' is a series of occasional articles on the public service, commercial, charitable and other organisations of Girton, for the information of local residents. Articles are written independently by members of the Editorial Staff of GPN, with the consent and cooperation of the organisations concerned. The selection of organisations featured in this series is entirely at the discretion of the Editorial Team. The articles do not in themselves represent an endorsement of the products or services of the organisation concerned. No connection exists between the publication of an article and any advertising in the GPN, and the article does not form part of any marketing or other promotional activity on the part of the organisation.