You can bank on this school making a real difference

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Leighton Buzzard Writers’ LBO Column. This week by Sara Harris...

I’ve written before about the sterling quality of schools that we have in Leighton Buzzard.

We are really lucky with our lower schools, our middle schools and our upper schools, and I personally think we are lucky to still have the three-tier system, when virtually every other local authority has given in and gone to the two-tier system.

Three-tier schooling benefits children on so many levels. It keeps schools relatively small and gives children a chance to feel part of a real community.

It stops Year Seven Shock, when children from tiny cosy local primaries suddenly find themselves thrust into bewilderingly vast secondary schools populated by enormous 16-year olds. It means that schools are much more able to focus on children at different stages of their development.

But it’s not just about the mainstream schools. Tucked away in a quiet part of town, we have a Special School that, more than any other school I know, really makes a vast difference to the lives of its pupils.

Oak Bank School is nominally a school for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a place where children who struggle with mainstream schooling, or who simply can’t quite find their place even in the excellent schools we have, can re-discover that school is a fun, enriching place to be, and that no-one gets put on the scrapheap even before they reach school leaving age.

It’s a place where children get the education they simply couldn’t access in a mainstream classroom. Most importantly, it’s a place where children learn that success means different things to different people, and where they are given the chance to explore their own, very personal routes to success. I am very proud of Oak Bank School and as the parent of an Oak Bank pupil, I am proud of her as well.

There is no equivalent of Mr Tumble for children with EBD. It’s not a ‘cute’ disability. People don’t look at children with EBD and go “aww”. Some of these children have problems in their lives that even mature adults would struggle to cope with.

But at Oak Bank School, they help these children to find ways to manage their difficulties, and to cope and grow in the adult world. Oak Bank is a very special school indeed, and we are lucky to have it.