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HRH The Countess of Wessex visit

By October 5, 2020August 26th, 2021No Comments

HRH The Countess of Wessex celebrates World Teachers’ Day with teachers and children at Stepping Stones School, in Hindhead

  • Staff at Stepping Stones were treated to a visit by HRH The Countess of Wessex on World Teachers’ Day 2020
  • The Countess also spoke at length with the students, who have a variety of learning needs, on what makes their teachers and staff so special to them. They did not disappoint and shared their love of the school and heartfelt anecdotes on what makes their teachers so special!

The Headteacher Jacqueline Silver said, “We are honoured that The Countess of Wessex visited us on World Teachers’ Day and provided such a personal level of interaction and encouragement to our staff and students. This has been a particularly wonderful way to thank and acknowledge their commitment and hard work, especially in the current context, when the community spirit and the dedication of our staff to serve the needs of our students has perhaps never been more important or apparent.”

Her Royal Highness was delighted to spend time with governors, staff and pupils in small groups at Undershaw, formerly the home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, meeting the Post 16 students and hearing about their employability curriculum. The Countess was offered a coffee at The Cookie Bar Bus, linked to the local coffee shop where many of the students undertake work and life skills experience, before observing the outdoor sports and games area and seeing the Forest School lessons outside and students’ art work.

The Countess also made use of remote learning technology, speaking virtually to all the younger year groups at the school’s Tower Road site online, hearing how they have embarked upon their new term of learning, full of positivity and happiness at being together again. The visit culminated in the presentation of a cake made specially by one of the school’s Teaching Assistants for World Teachers’ Day and to mark UN Space Week, and by being invited to sign the Visitors’ Book by Chair of Governors, Claire Cookson.

Against the current context there is a renewed vigour and energy at Stepping Stones as it embarks upon the academic year under the new headteacher Jacqueline Silver’s leadership. The school continues to successfully navigate the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic and The Countess was pleased to see the considerable effort that has been involved in reopening the school safely. Her Royal Highness was welcomed to the school which prides itself on being a bright, happy place, full of genuine spirit, warmth and ease and met a number of longstanding staff as well as the new leadership team.

The School

  • Stepping Stones School, a unique independent SEN school that serves Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex, welcomes a new headteacher and leadership team.
  • The visit took place at the school’s Undershaw site, home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his family from 1897 – 1907. Undershaw was built by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to meet the needs of his wife who suffered from Tuberculosis. He wrote many of his works here, including The Hound of the Baskervilles.
  • Under new leadership, the school moves towards its renewed vision for the future to create a truly innovative education for a lifetime: a curriculum that moves beyond lessons into a way of life.
  • The school has moved from partial opening to full reopening successfully and safely through its September Reintegration Programme.

The school is incredibly proud of its foundations and Stepping Stones’ new Headteacher, Mrs Jacqueline Silver is excited about embedding her vision for the school and the students in her care. The school’s purpose is unique as it provides a nurturing but ambitious education for those with SEND who might not thrive in a mainstream setting but who equally would not be well-suited to attending a special needs school. Stepping Stones offers an alternative which sits just between the two. It is a specialist environment of 95 students where students’ needs as individuals are met through a personalised, innovative and integrated approach to education, SEN provision, pastoral care and therapeutic support.

The Educational Offer

The school is shaping a new educational offer, an education for a lifetime which takes a holistic approach and will be launched in 2021. It moves beyond traditional lessons and into a way of life and lived learning. This incorporates the support of specialists, including those from the fields of therapy, SEN, education, employability and wellbeing, including Paralympian gold medallist Rachel Morris who is working with the team to build in physical and mental health as part of day to day school life. Intertwining a range of therapeutic and SEN support approaches with personalised, student-led learning opportunities which promote independence, agency, curiosity and self-awareness, the aim is to engender a love of learning for learning’s sake bespoke to each individual through a lived day to day educational experience. Through immersion in a supportive, healthy, exciting and aspirational time at a school which has their futures in sight from the outset, not only will the children’s school days be enriched and fulfilling, as too will their lives and futures, far beyond the school gates.

The staff at Stepping Stones firmly believe that additional needs should hinder neither aspiration nor independence and that learners should be empowered to fulfil their personal potential in adulthood.   Mrs Silver and her team of inspirational teachers are actively embedding routes from the start of every child’s time with them, not only into higher and further education but also to employability so that young people are equipped throughout to take up their place in the wider world with confidence. As a school they want to play their part in highlighting the importance of authentically inclusive workplaces where those with additional needs can be fully integrated into competitive employment, wherever their field of expertise might lie. With the current statistic of only 5.9% of people with special educational needs and disabilities gaining permanent paid employment in the UK, and the resulting impact on their life outcomes and expectancy, this has to be an imperative.

Stepping Stones School is supported by:

  • DFN Project Search, which is an international transition to work programme committed to transforming the lives of young people with learning disabilities and autism and which has supported more than 1300 young people into paid work;
  • the DFN Charitable Foundation whose aim is to bring positive and lasting change, helping to unlock natural potential and build a more inclusive and environmentally conscious society through education, employability, healthcare and conservation; and
  • the COINS Foundation whose primary aim is to utilise the profits of business to help disadvantaged people throughout the world achieve a better quality of life by providing ‘a hand up rather than a hand out.’