Visits to Current Communities
To further share their experience and to connect with current practice, former children from different communities visited The Mulberry Bush, one of the few schools currently providing specialist residential care for traumatised children aged 5-13 years.
'I've had a very, very gainful day here at the Mulberry Bush and learnt a lot.'
They were taken on a guided tour of the school by the children themselves and given the opportunity to critique, ask questions and share something of their own experiences during the day.
'the psychology, the ethic is the same'.
Meeting with current staff and children on site allowed for direct comparison and reflection with their own communities. Though they noted differences in the type of environment, in some techniques used and even in the types of children resident there, all were impressed that compared with their own community, there was a continuity in regard to the ethos of place which resonnated with their own experience.
[I was] greatly reassured that at least there is a small nucleus of special establishments like this still surviving, when a few months ago I'd have said that, because it was my belief, that they'd all gone - it was all history and it was only history now, so the fact that some of it is going on is very heartening'.
Before the visit, many were concerned with the current situation and impressed with the facilities and care the Mulberry Bush offers. The conviction from the group that more of these places are needed reinforced the drive and enthusiasm for the project and the lessons that may learned through it.
VISIT TO THE MULBERRY BUSH SCHOOL -
A reflection by ex-Wennington pupil Katy Pentith
"I was fascinated to visit the school. I came away with a very positive view. The new facilities are providing a very encompassing environment for all aspects of the childrens and staff life. The children who helped to show us round were members of the school council and were very proud of their houses, gardens, teaching rooms, helpers, staff, even the food! The teachers who joined us on our tour commented on how well the pupils engaged with us and even got cross when the staff interrupted them.
Several of our group were heartened to see the staff interacting with the children in a family type, hands on way. The talks with films given by other staff specialists were very informative and got to the nitty gritty of the task they faced. The "diary of a day" was particularly poignant. I wonder how they stay engaged with the children for such long periods. I am very pleased about the trained staff, spreading the word by going into other schools and offering strategies based on experience helping, with children excluded from main stream teaching experiences. Later in the afternoon it was good to listen to John Diamond how his job is developing. That the programme is considered a "work in progress" and not a final script. His enthusiasm for new techniques and therapeutic experiences for the children was heartening. I am sure that the school has a big part to play in giving some children a future with choice.
Even though the group were mainly educational professionals we seemed to get a long fine with lots of interacting during our lovely lunch. For one of our group a very special day. The gentleman concerned having been a pupil at the Mulberry Bush in the 1950s and going on to Caldecott. He and John Diamond had a private tour sharing his recollections of how life was as a pupil then. Where the boundaries were, the special places and how the buildings used to be before the rebuild. We were very lucky that Gemma was able to join us at the end and record our immediate experiences. There seemed to be a consensus that ideally a Mulberry Bush Senior School would be a long term aim. So a big thank-you to everyone for an inspiring day."