TAM BAILLIE, SCOTLAND'S COMMISSIONER FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE, FOLLOWING VISIT TO CSA ON 4th FEBRUARY 2013
I had the great pleasure of visiting Camphill School on 4th February 2013. The main part of my visit consisted of meeting with Klae, Harrison, CJ, and Callum who filled me in on life in the school and their views on what makes Camphill special to them. I really enjoyed speaking with them and I was struck by two things that they said. The first was that, for them, Camphill was a place where they felt safe – safe from what could be a threatening world outside of Camphill. The second was that Camphill allowed them to be themselves - to be respected for who they are as they grow and develop. I informed them that when I consulted with children and young people two of the key messages they gave were that they wanted to be safe and to be respected, just as Klae, Harrison, CJ and Callum had said they got from Camphill. I was so impressed by the messages they gave me I mentioned my visit in a speech I was giving later that day to a large gathering of teachers.
I also met with Laurence Alfred who showed me around the school grounds – as well as providing me with an insight to the history of the school and the impressive growth of the movement across the globe.
I would like to thank everyone I met and spoke with for the very enjoyable experience of visiting Camphill School – and a special thanks to Klae, Harrison, CJ and Callum for giving me their thoughts, views and wisdom.
MAUREEN WATT MSP
Camphill schools have, for a long time now, been at the forefront of providing innovative and holistic support for children with complex special needs. Having spent time with students and staff at the facility I have seen first-hand the benefits of the important work which Camphill does each and every day.
NICK’S MUM’S SPEECH AT THE FAREWELL PARTY FOR NICK, 13th APRIL 2011
CAIRNLEE HOUSE, BIELDSIDE, ABERDEEN
First of all, I would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved in Nick’s life at Camphill School Aberdeen since 17th November 1995 – a date etched firmly in my mind! What a long way he has come since that little 10-year-old arrived at Murtle Estate, not being able to sit still, running around, talking 15 to the dozen – LOUDLY!
How proud were we, when Nick took a leading role in some of the productions David has produced. Then, there are the crafts he has learned – basket making, weaving, pottery - and I have been one of the lucky receivers of the results of his work. A beautiful log basket, many runners and table covers which he has woven on the loom. Many items of pottery, pots, plates, mugs – all sorts. His work is evident all over my house and much admired. His time at Camphill has brought out many talents in Nick we would never have discovered. We knew about his musical talent – well that was expected - having a very talented and relatively famous Dad. But we had no idea of his acting and other artistic talents such as his painting – and we have to thank David here, for all his guidance. Nick’s paintings are also displayed on the walls in our house and it is amazing how many people stop and look and enquire ……. who painted this?
And another occasion we were shocked and amazed at was when Nick suddenly announced he had asked some of our musician friends if they would put on a concert for everyone at Cairnlee House and other invited friends. That was HIS idea and he organised it. What a night that was. I am only sorry his Dad wasn’t there - he would have been SO proud of his son and of ALL his achievements.
Camphill School Aberdeen has not only been a big part of Nick’s life but a big part of our family life also. It has helped us all. You became OUR Family and I have talked endlessly to many people, desperately in need of some of the help we needed, in Nick’s early years. You will ALL never be forgotten and we are indebted to you all. Thank you.
Nick is now to move forward to the next chapter in his life, and it is only with all your help and guidance that he is able to do this with confidence and strength.
NICK'S SPEECH AT HIS FAREWELL PARTY AT CAIRNLEE HOUSE, APRIL 2011
I am 26 years old now. I came to Camphill School when I was 11, in 1995.
I have made a lot of friends. I have met people who have helped me quite a lot. People have helped me to make things with my hands, they have taught me how to work, they have helped me through a difficult time when my dad died.
I have become more independent. In Cairnlee, being in the plays has been great for me. It has helped me to speak clearer and to focus. In Cairnlee I have learned to help other people.
Now I am looking forward to moving to Delrow. I can be nearer to my family and I can still live and work with people who can help me and with people I can help.
PARENTS’ REFLECTIONS FROM GRADUATION, JUNE 2010
What a journey we have been on as a family. Prior to Camphill, we perceived no future, having a child in the family that couldn't communicate, self harmed, had no awareness of danger, and little need of sleep. The patchwork of supporting services just didn't work together, and rather than provide respite or care, they just provided more hassle and stress when the service inevitably broke down. They were dark times for all of us - the frustration for Jack of not being able to tell us what he wanted, or make us understand, and the realisation for us as parents that we could not cope on our own.
The reality of not coping and the consequent feelings of uselessness made the next steps very hard. The admission of failure had to be made ‘public’ to a group of professionals in order to achieve a placement for Jack at Camphill. This was one of many low points where it felt that the statutory services wanted to rub our nose in it - just awful.
The approach from Camphill was immediately enabling for us. We weren't odd as a family any more. Here were people who knew what they were doing, and understood the meaning of ‘partnership’ with parents. We planned together, worked together, and blurred any edges for Jack by having close liaison between his two homes. He has been at Camphill for 11 years as a weekly boarder - home Friday to Monday and for holidays. Jack has grown and developed way beyond our expectations and dreams. At all times we have been fully involved in his individual educational plans and have had the opportunity to discuss the merits of different therapies and any possible problems. We have always had a very good relationship with Jack’s houseparents. That was essential. Letting go was so very difficult, as it meant entrusting someone else with your own very vulnerable child. We have been open and honest with each other and have worked closely together with his teacher and coworkers so that Jack can reach his full potential at his own pace and in a truly holistic way.
Jack’s life at Camphill has purpose. His daily routine builds into months, into seasons, into a complete year in which he feels secure and, through this, his character is developing. Jack’s contribution to life in his house is valued – he has self worth. The steadiness and purpose shown by those working in Camphill have allowed a unique relationship to develop between our family and Camphill. It is a relationship that goes beyond that of ‘service provider’ and ‘client’. It is more that of an extended family in which all are working to the same purpose which is supporting our son to achieve his full potential. Through Camphill – we can hope and dream again.
It’s almost time now for the Class 12 Graduation – time for us to celebrate how well Jack has done in the almost 12 years he’s been at Camphill. It’s also time for him to leave, to move on, to change his routines and setting, and learn to live as a young man.
At the Graduation we will be given the opportunity to say a few words about his time at Camphill. I’m pretty sure we’ll be too emotional. While Jack has been at Camphill not only has he grown into a very fine person who we can all be proud of, he has achieved things we’d never have dreamt possible. He has learned to speak (and now rarely stops!). He has learned so much in school and in Witiko, but for us, has learned from all of the coworkers and friends, often taking on a little of their personalities, phrases (and accents) – all of this and more has helped to make him the person he is today.
We thank you for it. You are an extended family to us – not just Jack – a lifeline that we will never forget nor take for granted.
Karen and Chris Stewart
Our daughter Jennifer, who is now 18-years-old, has been at Camphill since she was 8 years of age. Prior to selecting Camphill we visited numerous schools; however none were remotely suitable for her. Immediately we visited Camphill we knew that it was the right place. We were made to feel so welcome. Before attending Camphill, Jennifer was unhappy, frustrated and very very hard work. She is now extremely happy and a joy to be with. She has progressed beyond our wildest dreams and this is solely due to the Camphill ethos. At Camphill every child is valued and fully accepted no matter what their level of understanding is. Camphill is a unique place.
We attended Jennifer’s graduation on the 26th of June 2010. At the ceremony I listened intently to other parents talk openly and emotionally about their positive feelings towards Camphill. I saw Jennifer’s classmates (many in tears) speaking about how Camphill has changed their lives. I was absolutely staggered at how well they all presented themselves. They spoke with pride and confidence.
All these young people are now moving on to do different things, and I am in absolutely no doubt that they are in a far better place now than they would have been if they had not experienced life at Camphill.
My son Thomas has attended Camphill School since August 2002 when he was 9-years-old. Before this he had attended three mainstream schools (two with support bases) and the Lowit Unit at Aberdeen Children’s Hospital. It was concluded that Thomas needed a specialised education that Aberdeen City Council had not been able to provide.
By the time he arrived at Camphill Thomas had not been in full-time education since 1999 (and without any form of education for over 6 months prior to his admission to the Lowit Unit in 2001. He was extremely anxious and had been made to feel a failure educationally. The result of this had left us with an angry, volatile little boy and this manifested in extreme behavioural outbursts. His learning difficulties at this stage had not been fully uncovered.
However Camphill School set about the task of trying to manage and educate Thomas. They had to strip away the damage done by countless rejections from previous schools and rebuild Thomas’s spirit, confidence and well-being before he had any chance of beginning to learn. It was a long and difficult process. Most of the time and certainly in the beginning Thomas was not a willing candidate. He refused to enter the classroom. He refused to cooperate. He had put up artificial barriers in defence of his difficulties being exposed. These took Camphill School years to unlock. I recall it being suggested that if Thomas was not managing the school environment then the environment must adapt to support him.
It was decided he should have lessons outwith the school setting and only gradually be reintroduced to the classroom. In the beginning he was home schooled within Camphill House and he was eventually able to attend lessons part-time (Birgit for many weeks remained with him while he was at school in order to facilitate this), and he very slowly built up to the point where he could remain at school full time.
We felt, for the first time, that we were supported. It was like someone else sharing the responsibility of Thomas. I knew we were united and were all working to the same agenda to achieve the same goal. It was fantastic having someone to share the highlights of his achievements but also to discuss the way forward when things were not good either at home or Camphill. The staff knew and understood my son as well as I did (maybe even better at times!). He was very much part of the Camphill community and he flourished within it.
As well as classroom-based learning, his curriculum was very varied and extensive. My son has participated in horse riding, archery, wall climbing, trampolining, canoeing and many other social activities. He enjoyed all sorts of therapies including massage, play and art. He was taught many practical skills such as gardening, cooking, brick-laying, joinery and sculpting, to mention but a few.
These all enabled him to build up his confidence, advance his social skills, interact and respect the uniqueness of others and to mature into adulthood. The environment at Camphill is in itself therapeutic and caring; the relationships between the staff and the pupils are safe and supportive. Each child is very much an individual with different needs and all are catered for in this setting. There is continuity of care and it is very routinised which really suited my child.
Thomas’s time at Camphill has not been without its trials, far from it, he tested it to the limits on several occasions; however he was supported throughout by experienced and dedicated staff who unlike the others never gave up on Thomas. They always found a solution or way forward in these situations and dialogue between all parties was never exhausted before a solution was found or way forward agreed.
My son has now completed his education at Camphill. He is two months short of his 18th birthday. The efforts and dedication of all involved speak for themselves as Thomas leaves school an able, confident, proud young man. We are very optimistic for his future. I have no doubt that as with any youngster leaving education, there will be many obstacles to overcome and lessons to be learnt but Thomas has it in him to secure a bright future for himself and be a valued member of society.
I believe my son has had a very unique, privileged schooling and, after arriving at Camphill, a happy childhood which has set him up for life. Before Camphill Thomas’s future was bleak. We accept that although he will never be an academic he will be able to work and in time maintain and support himself. And that to me is success! In an ideal world every child like Thomas with complex needs should be afforded such an education. Childhood is such a short time in our lives that it is imperative as a society that we get it right and meet the needs of these vulnerable youngsters.
I am certain that no other establishment in Scotland could have provided the high level of education afforded to Thomas. The staff are excellent and have the necessary expertise to deal with pupils who have complex needs. I conclude by saying a huge thank you to all at Camphill for making Thomas a success story. I am so proud of him and all he has achieved. Special thanks must go to Birgit for her devotion to Thomas from the day he arrived right through his schooling until he left last week. I know she is as proud of him as I am.
And to you Laurence for being a positive influence through his counselling sessions that probably averted a lot of disasters!!!
Lorna: I would like to thank everyone at Camphill School who has supported us, helped us to make our way and helped us to find new friends. I would also like to say thank you for supporting James, Conor and myself to go to college. I am grateful that we have people here who love us and want to be with us and who care about us. This is like a second home to us.
Steven: I came to Camphill when I was little and I was in Class 2. I have worked hard in the school. I have met lots of people and they helped me to meet my best friend, Jack. Thank you very much for this.
Conor: Before I came to Camphill I wasn’t included in anything, I was pushed to the side, no one wanted to teach me. Teachers would ignore me if I asked questions and other pupils would pick on me. I chose to sit inside for lunch because I was afraid to go outside. I was accepted at Camphill, asked my opinion on things, and given the opportunity to do things such as going to college and also drama and art. I never thought I would be allowed to do these things and actually discovered that I was quite good at them! The music classes with Colin have been life changing for me. Before I came to Camphill I was afraid to even sing in front of my parents. Performing in ‘The Wave’ play was a big thing for me, and to sing in front of loads of people was nerve racking but pretty cool.
It is peaceful and quiet at Camphill; that is what makes me feel safe and also because it is not in a town area where you’re surrounded by other outside kids. I don’t feel under pressure here and I’m allowed to relax. I’ve also been allowed outwith the estate to do voluntary work at Culter Hall which is something I would never have previously expected to be able to do.
Sam: It has been very nice to be at Camphill School. I really like my teacher, Ivan. I’d like to say a big thank you to my house and Marieke, Jakob and Jessica. I have been able to make friends here with Jennifer and Scott.
Charlie: Before I came to Camphill I had no friends. Over the years here I got more and more friends – Lorna, Steven, Gordon, Conor, James, Jack, Sam. They have been helping me and I have been helping them. I have learned how to make great friends.
James: Before I came to Camphill I attended a school, Blank Academy, some of you may know. During my time there I was never given a chance, I was always the one that was pushed to the side and forgotten. When I first came to Camphill I was sceptical: “What is this all about? What am I doing here”? I slowly came to understand why things are the way they are; I came to love it for what it is. I also became aware of what Camphill can do for others; I saw the full potential of how it can make people’s lives better.
My time there was great and I was given so many chances, for example I’ve been attending Aberdeen College on the Links Course, and this has changed my life because I have now been given approval to study Child Health and Social Care full time. The reason why I chose this course was to show my appreciation for what Camphill has done for me and to also give back in return what I gained and was given by Camphill.
NATURE NURTURE® PROJECT TESTIMONIALS
I am thrilled and delighted that our pupils were given the opportunity to participate. It is especially important for children raised in urban settings to have the opportunity to experience the types of things you have being exposing them to. I believe that very few of our children would otherwise have had that …Thank you for all the excellent work you and your team have undertaken with our children. I am SO pleased that we were given the opportunity to take part. I send you all every good wish for the future.
Ann Wood, Head Teacher, Marchburn Primary
I feel that all the sessions have gone really well, time seems to pass so quickly. The children have really benefited from the experience. It would be nice if it could continue, to see them develop further.
Staff member, Deeside Family Centre
... the children have a ball and really enjoy the outdoors. Good to see the children grow in confidence ...
Staff member, Deeside Family Centre
My hope is that funding is made available to allow the project to continue running as my first-hand knowledge and experience has allowed me to witness the positive change that can be achieved in a young person’s life in a relatively short period of time.
Staff member, Craigielea Children’s Centre
Throughout my experience at Camphill I put the knowledge I had into practice. This is not always the case in my daily work due to structure and timescales being met. It was great to be the worker I wanted to be and know how beneficial it was to the children.
Staff member of a family centre
I know that being outdoors is beneficial to children, however do not often get this opportunity. Being at Camphill allowed me to actually see the benefits and the effects on the children. Children were a lot calmer and able to concentrate because they had had the opportunity for space and freedom to explore the natural world. Children looked physically happier and relaxed by the end of the time they spent at Camphill. The children developed stamina. Importantly the children became aware of assessing risks for themselves.
Staff member of a family centre
Thank you very much to all the staff as Calleigh is much more confident with walking and it has helped her in becoming a well-rounded individual, and more sociable with others, especially adults, whom she used to shy away from. Well done all!
Ellie would like to be there longer.
Thank you all again for the fantastic work you do and that it is all appreciated by us and the children.
Our son had a fantastic time and speaks about it very fondly. He has asked to go back again on several occasions and has shown everyone his photographs.
We wanted to thank you for all the superb work you have done the last two weeks. Thomas has had a fantastic week full of opportunities and experiences that I’m sure he will remember for years to come.
I liked everything we did today.
I wish I could be here forever.
I like riding the donkeys and going on the rope swing and helping to light the fire.
I liked picking apples and pressing them and making apple juice.
I really like seeing everyone each week. We’ve made a club and I got to be leader. I fell out with one of the boys but I was really happy cause I managed to sort it out and now we are friends again.
Today in Nature Nurture I like making a swing and then swinging on it, playing hide and seek and riding on the donkey.