An introduction to St Joseph's Specialist School & College
As first time, rather belated bloggers, we are a little nervous …. Where do we start?
Well, let’s start at the beginning – who are we? St Joseph’s Specialist School & College is a special needs school in Surrey providing personalised education, therapies and care to 77 learners. A third of the learners are residential, some weekly and some termly. They are between the ages of 7 and 19 years old and the majority are on the autistic spectrum. All our learners have a variety of complex learning difficulties and challenging behaviours.
Within the context of the Food for Life Partnership, St Joseph’s received their Silver Award in November 2008 from Prince Charles. We are honoured to be a flagship school and proud to be featured in the FFLP promotional DVD. Now, we are working hard to be the first special school in the country to receive the Gold award. We hope to do this by the end of July 2010. So from now on, we will be blogging to report our progress …
At St Joseph’s, all the staff, whether education, inclusion, care, catering, administration, gardening, domestic and maintenance, are dedicated to providing the very best for our learners - and this includes food!!
Food is an integral part of our daily lives at St Josephs; it appears throughout the waking day curriculum – cooking lessons, gardening lesson, daily living skills, cooking and gardening clubs, shopping for and preparing meals in care, work experience in our kitchen and garden. Cooking and gardening often preferred activities and so can be used very effectively to motivate and engage our learners. All the educational activities that relate to Food for Life and are orchestrated by Emma Ruby, our wonderful food tech, science and DT teacher – Emma is also a class tutor! Emma took over this role in September 2009 from Melanie Gray who had spearheaded the original campaign and lead the school to achieve their Silver Award – the school owes Melanie a great debt of gratitude for setting up such a firm foundation here for Food for Life.
Our kitchen is a focal point of our daily life and is run brilliantly by our cook, Alison Kendal. She has been instrumental in the school’s achievements to date and is now working flat out to achieve our Gold Award. She and her team love nothing more than buying produce grown in our kitchen garden by our learners, and then cooking with it for lunch. All our learners have a daily cooked school lunch as do the majority of our staff.
At St Joseph’s, our grounds are unique; they are not only extensive but also beautiful. We have Mick Nicholls to thank for this. He and his team work tirelessly to maintain the mature gardens and lawns, as well as an abundant kitchen garden, a large greenhouse and polytunnels. Mick is very involved in the supporting the teaching of horticulture at St Joseph’s and he has been an inspiration throughout our Food for Life journey to both staff and learners.
Our horticulture teacher, Sarah Maxted, teaches across all key stages and has an unerring ability to make gardening and growing vegetables relevant, absorbing and fun to all our learners, however complex their needs.
We have lucky enough to have had two visits from the FFLP. On 15th March, Liz Rushton, from Focus on Food, came to see us to discuss the Food Education aspect of the gold Award. Liz was our teacher on the cooking bus; the whole school has such wonderful memories of the bus and it was great to see her again. On the bus, Liz taught us a great deal about how to teach healthy cooking and eating, and on her visit she gave us lots of advice and suggestions for our Food for Life event in the summer.
On 23rd March, Jeanette Orrey, the FFLP Policy Adviser and Caroline Chambers, the South-East FFLP co-ordinator, came to discuss Food Leadership and Food Quality and Provenance, two other elements for achieving Gold. Both of them enjoyed the delicious lunch Alison served and joining in the lunchtime session. Several learners choose to join them on their table. Having the opportunity to meet Jeannette and show her around our school was a great privilege, and, as ever, Caroline’s knowledge and enthusiasm encourages us to work ever harder.
Both visits were a wonderful affirmation of our work at St Joseph’s and our progress towards the Gold Award.
Earlier this term, a South Korean television production company, EBS (Educational Broadcasting Services) came to film a documentary series featuring unique schools around with world. The theme of one documentary was ‘School Food’ and, as a flagship school working towards the FFLP Gold Award, EBS identified St Joseph’s as a school with an excellent healthy eating ethos, and an exceptional track record for teaching cooking and horticulture. A television crew of three came for a day’s filming and the learners responded wonderfully to having new people to show their work to.
We hope this gives some insight into our school – now, we have started, we will blog again on a weekly basis.
If anyone has any queries they think we could help with, email us and we will give whatever support we can.