Principal of new free school in Norwich for children with autism reflects on its first term

The Wherry School vice principal Robert Speck, principal Rachel Quick and vice principal Danielle Wi

The Wherry School vice principal Robert Speck, principal Rachel Quick and vice principal Danielle Winteringham. Picture: Lloyd Jones/Vertas - Credit: Archant

With two weeks now out of the way at The Wherry School, a new free school in Norwich for children with autism, principal Rachel Quick reflects on the start of its first term.

'It is an incredible testament to how much hard work has been going on over the last 10 months that the school opened on time for staff and children.

'You cannot underestimate how challenging it is to ensure all the staff are in place for September, that there is a cohesive training programme which sets out the vision of The Wherry School, and also brings together 34 teachers and support staff, who have never worked together, to make sure that the school is an incredible place for learning from day one for our children.

'It has been an amazing first two weeks, and the children and staff have achieved so much together

'It is hard to understand the world in which our children inhabit, where they thrive on routines, familiarity and an environment which minimises their stress and anxiety. To bring 48 children together, successfully, from across the whole county and north Suffolk has taken a lot of trust on the part of the children and their families, and the staff have had to be constantly creative and resilient.

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'Many children have found their previous settings challenging for one reason or another, and will no doubt find settling at The Wherry a struggle at times. But we have the resources and environment which allows us to spend time with the children, to personalise and individualise their learning and to use this knowledge as a basis for building their learning journey.

'Although days for everyone are long and staff are all building relationships with children, to minimise anxiety there has been a vast amount of laughter, fun and care.

'The children have not always found things easy - the new friends, teachers, staff, building and routines - but there is an incredible sense of calmness in the school, and the children are believing that we really do want them to succeed and fly.

'Our aspirations for them are so high.

'I have heard from parents that their children seem happy... They are smiling and happy in class and we are all delighted that this will be a centre of excellence for learning for children with autism.

'Children who have previously struggled with school are now feeling positive.

'As we have said a lot the last few weeks, we are all making small steps forward towards a really bright future for these children.'

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