Bon appetit! Special school 'blessed' by grant to open outdoor dining pod
PUBLISHED: 06:00 29 January 2019 | UPDATED: 07:43 29 January 2019
Copyright: Archant 2019
Wintry weather may have hit the county with a vengeance, but it is not stopping pupils at a specialist school making use of their new outdoor dining pod.
The pod at the Wherry School in Hall Road, a special school for children with autism, has been erected in the playground to provide a space for pupils to eat and chat away from the hubbub of the dining room.
After hearing about the school’s plight the Wroxham and Hoveton Lions donated £7,800 to help build the wooden structure, which has a communal table, benches and a multi-coloured Perspex roof.
Wherry School principal Rachel Quick said food and eating – and the social interactions which often come with it – could be a particularly challenging area for autistic children.
“Originally when we did the dining room there were small individual tables, but one thing that came up very quickly – particularly with the older children – was that they pushed the tables together. We assumed they would sit alone or in twos but they enjoyed siting together communally,” she said.
“We do food and cooking as an enrichment activity. It goes back to social communication and thinking about how something like standing around talking with food in your hand is a part of life.
“We were absolutely blessed to get a grant from the Lions to have the dining pod. It is incredible to see that children who society assumes want to sit in little boxes actually want to sit together and eat together and practise social norms.”
Matt Drake, head of welfare at the Wroxham and Hoveton Lions, said the group was considering the Wherry School’s project for a small grant.
“But we could see that they needed it so much, so we made them our big donation of the year – £7,800 is quite a lot for us,” he said.
Wherry Friends Association vice-chairman Vicky Trattles said: “To see the dining pod up and in use is absolutely amazing. My son attends this school and uses it every day.
“Obviously lunchtime in school is mostly about social communication, socialising, making friends.
“The pod helps because it is made from natural materials and it is outside so there is no echo – all the children have to think about is sitting and eating and talking to each other. It means they are calm and ready for the rest of the day.”