Twenty-four children from Woodeaton Manor School have visited RAF Halton to learn about recruit training and undertake some activities.
The school, based in Oxfordshire, is a residential special school for children that have emotional and social difficulties. Some have Autism or Aspergers Syndrome whilst others suffer from Tourettes Syndrome or Attachment Disorder.
The children, aged between 11 and 18, began their visit at the Recruit Training Squadron where they were told all about the life of a recruit undergoing training. They then went on to visit the restored WWI trenches before moving onto the High Ropes Course for some teambuilding exercises.
Of the 52 pupils at the school, one third were either fostered or adopted and suffer attachment disorder as a result. Mrs Anne Pearce, Head teacher, said: “The experiences in their formative years have been desperately unpleasant; be that neglect, physical abuse, mental abuse or sexual abuse. As a result they struggle to befriend and trust people.” This was quite clear when all of those that had been fostered or adopted declined to take part in the high ropes session.
Anne added: “We serve the whole of Oxfordshire and we try to give the children a level of emotional stability. Once this is achieved we can then immerse the children in a variety of social experiences, after which we work on academics. These children are bright; very bright but what stops them from interacting is anxiety. For each of the diagnoses that we see, anxiety is pivotal.”
An incredibly successful school, Woodeaton has achieved four ‘outstanding’ grades from Ofsted. Anne said: “Autism and Aspergers Syndrome are conditions for life. We do our best to increase their resistance and help them with their sensory processing. For example, these children would be literal learners; a quip like ‘pull your socks up’ would result in the children physically bending down and pulling up their socks. This forces us to teach in an entirely different way to mainstream schools.”
The school will take advantage of any experience offered to them and they came to be at RAF Halton following a suggestion from the Variety Club who supports the school. Mrs Pearce said: “I hope that today is doing two things; giving our children a fantastic opportunity and experiences, and also showing RAF staff that children with disorders are highly capable. Just because these children have a diagnoses doesn’t mean they can’t be successful.”