Sue Fowlds 2015 Principle Report
Wandsworth School has completed its 9th year of operations and I couldn’t be prouder of the community we have grown into over the years. A school is so much more than a place of education, and Wandsworth is just that. Our children have found their “home away from home”. Our parents have found other parents with whom they have so much in common. In our school these threads of familiarity stretch so much further than “How is your child doing at school?” Our parents recognise the fears, anxieties, frustrations, and sense of loss, that other moms and dads with special needs children experience. They talk about things that parents with ‘regular’ children know little about, and they get it. Sharing another’s experience with a parent who is new to special needs can mean the difference between wandering lost or walking a journey together with another family who has found a meaningful and supportive path. Angie and I are so privileged to share in these journeys and to get to know the families of our special needs children who are some of the most remarkable, resourceful, compassionate and fiercely protective people we know.
We have had another fantastic year with the children at Wandsworth, they bring our school to life in so many ways. I believe the most significant overall area of development for many of our children has to be the building of their social skills and their relationships that have blossomed and grown over the months and years. Whether children are verbal or not, physically challenged or able, we see gravitational pulls of children to each other that strengthen daily. Finding a “second home” at school is one thing, but finding unconditional acceptance adds volumes to a child’s schooling experience. The existence of a learning environment where absolute acceptance and content learners is the norm, is a model upon which many of our mainstream schools would be proud to be built. Students who ‘job shadow’ at Wandsworth, and adult volunteers who help out, all leave expressing the same observations - that the love felt between the staff and children is real and palpable and practised daily without effort or restraint, that the happy and welcoming staff and accepting pupil body is noteworthy, and that the non-judgemental “you’re perfect just as you are” is our mind-set.
Wandsworth School has been the education centre to many young special needs children and this year, like no other, we say good-bye to some exceptional children who have blossomed into amazing young adults, but at the same time we welcome new Reception and Junior Primary children who we hope to envelop into a world of learning that will one day prepare them for living as independently as possible in South Africa’s macrocosm.