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Opening of our new Hospital School at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital and presentation by the British Council of an International Award
16th September, 2010


slideshow of photos from the day

video of the speeches

The Opening
We were delighted to have so many distinguished guests, including Governors of Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, CCHS Governors, members of the Council, including the Leader Sir Merrick Cockell, volunteers from our Charity ‘Friends of Chelsea Hospital School’, parents and of course our staff and students, at our Opening and Award Ceremony on the 16th September. Many thanks to everyone who participated in the opening Ceremony.   Special thanks go to Professors Sir Christopher Edwards, Chair of C & W Trust who officially opened the new school, helped by our students Poppy and Zena wielding three metre scissors.  Sir Christopher commended the school for the part they had played in the bid for the expansion of the paediatric wards in the West London Review He spoke about the importance of a holistic approach at C & W and the central place education has in the lives of children and young people, especially mentioning Kieran a young boy who had been confined to bed since Christmas, who had walked into the primary class and had shown him how he was learning using the white board.  Sir Christopher also talked about the many young people from the ‘Facing the World Charity’ who arrive from countries such as Vietnam, Fiji, Africa and South America to have complex facial surgery – often staying for many months or even years – and the necessity for education during this long this process.

We would like to thank Heather Lawrence, Chief Executive of  C & W Trust, for her belief  in and support for the Hospital School and for having the creative idea of placing us at the Centre of Paediatrics – we like to think of the new school as a ‘Living Brain’ shining out at the centre of the wards.

Many thanks must go to the ‘listening architects’ but most of all to Shaun Dolan our artist in residence who put so much work into the overall design of the school, including our famous ‘gold wall’ and to Chris Cole whose knowledge and understanding of informational technology and the intricacies of fibre cables and wireless connections knows no bounds – thanks to both of them for working throughout the summer to ensure everything was ready for the start of the Autumn term.

The Friends of CCHS have put so much energy and time into raising money for the school, what difference have they made I was asked – the Charity enables the school to stay open for 50 weeks a year – provides an enriched curriculum with a poet, artist, musicians and story tellers in residence.  They also enable us to employ an art therapist to support those young people long term in hospital often in isolation and a drama therapist to help develop the social skills needed to live in a complex society.  Our ICT is second to none and each patient who is in bed can have access to a lap top with a web cam enabling them to video conference with the hospital school classroom, their home school and further afield.

The International Award
We were more than delighted when John Rolfe, the Manager of the International School Award for the British Council visited the hospital school in July to look at the International dimension in our curriculum.  This included reviewing our Comenius project with Poland, Italy, Greece and Finland and video conferencing with a school in Gaza along with our students.  John interviewed staff who had been on school exchanges as well as students to discover the educational benefits of such a scheme.  CCHS is extremely lucky to have an International Schools co-ordinator of the calibre of Joanna Eaves – she has a natural ability at languages, recently adding Arabic (along with several European languages) to her repertoire – her energy and enthusiasm has motivated all members of staff and students ensuring a very high level of engagement by all.  Thanks also go to the staff who have been on British Council trips to Hong Kong and Africa where their involvement in education in these diverse settings have added to our ability to teach the children and young people in hospital who come from all over the world.  Marie Sherlock has been elected as the UK representative for HOPE (Hospital Organisation for Pedagogues in Europe) and some members of the team will be going to an International conference in Munich to present some workshops on complex issues around hospital teaching.

It was with great delight that we asked Leo Jordan (17) a student who has had many regular admissions to hospital over the past12 years, to accept the International School Award. This is an accreditation for outstanding development of the international dimension in the curriculum.  Leo has been very much involved in these projects over the years, including this summer interviewing a teacher from Gaza who came to London – video conferencing with students from Gaza on a regular basis and being interviewed by the British Council.  John Rolfe said he and his team at the British Council had been especially impressed by our work with hospitals in Europe and our connection with Gaza – he further stated that we were the first school in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea to obtain this award – and the first hospital school in the World!

Leo talked about his involvement in the design of the school, sitting in on the architects meetings and designing a space that was a sophisticated and attractive learning centre with a ‘chill out room’. The importance of the International dimension, the enriched learning environment with young people from a wide variety of countries and backgrounds.   He spoke of the school as an ‘extension of his family’ where he had experienced excellent teachers.

Our Chair of Governors, Ayoola Bankole thanked Heather Lawrence and the Trust for seeing education as such a pivotal part of the hospital, and for the support of Governors and the Charity.  Ayoola quoted from our outstanding Ofsted report in March 2010 (one of many outstanding reports!) a parent saying ‘the school was a Beacon of light for her daughter during her hospital admission’.

 Chelsea Community Hospital School is one of the top 16 special schools in the Country.

The ceremony ended with a delicious tea of (very healthy) homemade cakes, provided by the staff, Governors, volunteers and students.  As well as a very special celebratory cake donated from ‘Whole Foods’ in Kensington High Street. 

Press Release for Opening and International Award
Imagine if you can having multiple admissions to hospital each year, being admitted for 6 months to an inpatient unit, or being in isolation for long periods – difficult at any age but for children and young people this loss of  their every day life of family, school and friends can have a long term impact. 

At CCHS we provide an enriched science and arts curriculum 50 weeks a year - patients in isolation have access to the internet and web cameras, enabling them to link up with the hospital classrooms, their home school and their families.

 Over the past year our Comenius education project with Finland, Poland, Italy and Greece, as well as our Global Gateway link with a school in Gaza has enabled our students to share not only their every day lives but develop projects in understanding and comparing a wide variety of environments, learning about the ecology of all these countries and their unique challenges.

– For example: what it is like to live in Finland in the long dark cold winters? – How do students manage to study in Gaza with electricity for only a short period each day? and how do they remain committed to study when the temperature is 45 and no air conditioning?  How do our students continue their studies and take exams whilst in hospital? 

– These regular discussions by video link are built into the timetable – creating a curriculum that encompasses, development of empathy and understanding of others lives, geography, ecology and communication skills - I have seen our students develop in confidence as they enter into debates with students overseas and see that even though their lives my be effected by a medical or emotional issue they are able to have a significant input into a wider community.  

This British Council International award is a tribute to all the students and staff involved in these projects and recognition that even though one may face difficulties in life – this does not have to be a barrier to achievement.

Janette Steel
Principal, Chelsea Community Hospital School


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