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January 1st 2012



Janette OBE sml


Dear Colleagues, Governors, Families and Friends of CCHS

I want to thank all of you for your good wishes on the Honour I received today.  It was only through your efforts and that made this award possible.


I was very lucky twenty three years ago to have been appointed Head Teacher to open a new hospital school, then called Westminster Children’s Hospital School - which comprised of a paediatric hospital  (Westminster Children’s) and a new inpatient psychiatric unit for ten young children and their families.  All this before the National Curriculum and Local Management of Schools and of course before Ofsted! Today we have four hospital Schools serving Westminster and RKBC, an active community service and an international programme

How privileged I have been to have the opportunity to do something I passionately believed in – that every child has a right to education whilst in hospital for medical or mental health conditions. 

As logical as it seems now, this has not been an easy goal to achieve for any of us involved. With the passing of ILEA, hospital education appeared to be in danger of fading away, hospital schools were closing and in mental health units decisions about whether a child was well enough to be taught were unclear and there were no standards for education provision.

 At this time there had been no legislation on the ‘rights to education for children and young people’ for almost 40 years.  Hospital teachers were often called the ‘Raffia Mafia’ – with little access to special training on the effects of medical conditions on the ability of a child to learn.   

At the behest of the Leaders of hospital schools, Lord Michael Young, came to the rescue of hospital education in 1994 – insisting in the House of Lords that a clause was included in the new education Bill for an entitlement to education whilst in hospital. This Circular 12/94 (followed by 732/2001) ‘The education of children with medical and mental health conditions’  lays down the responsibility of the Local Authorities and home schools to ensure, for the first time, continuity of education for children in hospital and those at home with chronic or acute medical conditions.

The National Curriculum and Ofsted further enshrined the rights to education of all children.  Our first Ofsted (1997) was met with great energy by staff as we felt this was an opportunity to show that it was possible to provide a high quality education service to children in hospital. 

The Inspectors  ‘Inspirational’ report on the School brought requests for training and advice that today has grown into a nationwide service and the creation in 2011 of the www.wellatschool.org web site that receives over 100 hits a day. The website is populated with free, well-researched information, such as videos, practical help and resources for teachers working with children that have medical and mental health problems in school. 

The scope of our contribution to the access to education for children and young people with mental health issues, was given further expression in 2008 when I was voted by my colleagues in mental health, to represent education on the Advisory Committee of QNIC- (The Quality Network for Inpatient Child and Adolescent Mental Health Units) run under the auspices of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. This has raised the standards and profile of education in inpatient units throughout UK.

The international dimension of our work is expressed in two principle ways.

We participated in our first HOPE Conference (Hospital Organisation for Pedagogues in Europe) in Sweden in 1990 and that led to our involvement with the Comenius project- an organisation that fosters European-wide communication and learning. We are now completing our third project with Finland, Poland, Greece, Italy and Gaza.  In 2006 London Hospital Heads hosted the first HOPE conference in London with delegates from 40 different countries. 

Last year CCHS was given an International Award by the British Council and first prize for our work in linking children in hospitals and schools through video conferencing.  This prize has enabled, amongst others things, three CCHS staff, who have worked so creatively on this project - to plan an educational visit to our partner school in Gaza.

Much of what I describe here would not be possible without advanced use of communication technology and for that I want to acknowledge the untiring support from the Company of Information Technologists and Imperial College – as well as our own specialist ICT guru.

I often ask people to imagine what it must be like for a child in isolation for weeks unable to be in contact with their families, home school or the hospital school.  It seems extraordinary that when we opened CCHS in 1989 we had only two stand-alone computers. Today, with generosity of our funders and the skill of our IT support we provide a computer and web cam for all children by their beds.  Video conferencing has changed their lives radically, particularly for our older students who are now able to maintain their links through technology to their Colleges and Universities

Two years ago CCHS was awarded ‘Extended School Established Status’.  We have been passionate advocates of a link between rapid recovery and a stimulating environment for our students.  A fifty-week education and creative arts programme ensures young people in hospital have access to education and the arts throughout the year. This includes a vibrant youth club on Rose ward and an education and advice service to young people on Foulis ward when they are transferred from paediatrics to adult services. 

Throughout the year our resident artists, poets, storytellers and musicians, bring their creative energy to students providing an enriched curriculum and many exciting art and music projects. To support the emotional side of being in hospital, and to help young people think of their future, we have drama and art therapists, learning mentors and careers advisors.

We have achieved this in one simple way-  teamwork.

The teams are wide and varied but to mention a few - there is a wonderful group of people called the ‘The Friends of CCHS’ who have been supporting the school for over 20 years, giving up their time voluntarily, so we could provide holidays to our students (Sayers Croft,) variety club buses, horse riding, swimming and the enriched community I referred to previously.

Then, our Governing Body who have given their time over the years to provide us with advice and guidance- and who will be critical to our continued success in the future.

We have been lucky to have an excellent Senior Management Team who have grown with me and the CCHS, taking a Leadership role to ensure that every child has the best learning opportunity possible.

Finally, to all the staff who provide a sound education in this unique environment where one days laughter and creativity can be abruptly replaced by deep sadness. Only special people can provide special needs education and all of you prove every day how lucky I am to be associated with such a talented and compassionate group of people.

The award of the OBE is an accolade for us all and for what we have all achieved in hospital education.

With very many thanks,

Janette Steel

#5 Mary Chambers 2012-10-16 13:55
Janette, just heard your great news. Congratulations ,and thank you for all the lovely times we had through Comenius nd HOPE.
Such a wonderful achievement and so well deserved. Wishing you and your team continued success.
Mary Chambers
#4 Mary McCarron 2012-10-15 13:21
Janette, what a lot has happened since we last talked!

Just found out about your OBE at the HOPE conference. You are a shining light in hospital education and the award is well deserved.
Congratulations from all your friends teaching in Irish hospitals.
#3 David 2012-05-29 10:37
congrats frrom a Future PM...HINT
#2 Mark 2012-05-29 10:29
Many congratulations Janette and well deserved by you and your team. I just found out about your OBE and it has made my day!
#1 Monique Blanchet 2012-05-29 10:19
Congratulations Jan. I have known you for over 30 years and I know how you have always dedicated all your time and energy to others. You really deserve this award.Bravo et chapeau my friend!
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