Mike Whelan – St John Vianney School
I am the PE coordinator at St John Vianney School in Stretford, Manchester. We are a Catholic Special School catering for children with autism, ADHD and complex needs. Four years ago, I was asked to introduce a Key Stage 3 residential for our pupils and had heard about The Bendrigg Trust through a family member. I booked a taster visit with a colleague to see their work first hand and was instantly hooked. I have just returned from our most recent residential and felt compelled to share my thoughts.
Bendrigg is a special place in many ways. It is set in idyllic surroundings and has amazing facilities which can cater to the needs of young people with all manner of conditions, but it is their staff who ultimately sealed the deal. Nothing is ever too much trouble and I am a tough act to please, yet from the itinerary to the fussy eaters to juggling of numbers and even rejigging the timetable when ‘The Beast from the East’ threatened to disrupt our residential, the staff have been consistently outstanding.
We have been coming for the last four years consecutively and last year our newly appointed Headteacher, came for a visit, to see Bendrigg for himself. Based on that visit alone and seeing the educational benefits of team work, independence, increased self-confidence and resilience amongst our pupils, he made the decision to fund annual residentials for all our young people, a huge investment for the school but one that he felt necessary after seeing the amazing work being done at Bendrigg.
As an educator I see education as a collaboration, not something that is purely delivered on site in school, but something that also requires the valuable input of trusted partners who share our ethos and philosophy that every child is unique and must be nurtured appropriately. To me, Bendrigg is our missing ingredient. The yeast that enables the loaf to rise, the sunshine that gives the flower the confidence to bloom and unfurl its petals to the World. Our children are still buzzing from their trip and the positive impact of the trip is apparent for all to see!
I look forward to many more visits to Bendrigg in the future and would recommend them unreservedly to other schools and institutions who are looking to enhance the lives of their young people.
Mike Whelan, Teacher and Group Organiser