Schools SOS win proved very special

Teaching assistant Michelle Messenger, centre, with children in Kingfisher School’s sensory garden

Teaching assistant Michelle Messenger, centre, with children in Kingfisher School’s sensory garden

First published in Countywide Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

A SPECIAL school which won a new sensory garden in last year’s Save Our Schools competition is urging others to enter.

For the fourth year running, the Oxford Mail has teamed up with Abingdon-based construction company Leadbitter for the Save Our Schools competition, offering one school the chance to spend £7,500 on improvements.

Pupils and staff at Kingfisher School, Abingdon, won the 2010 competition after collecting 13,760 tokens – the equivalent of more than 188 per pupil.

The money was spent on overhauling its sensory garden to make sure the children at the school, who have profound and multiple learning difficulties, could get the most out of it.

Teaching assistant Michelle Messenger, who designed the garden, said: “The children are out there having sensory stories and two of the classes are maintaining the garden.

“We have been able to do projects on birdwatching and it’s also a peaceful area where people can go and calm down.”

She said the garden was ideal for the special needs of the children who are taught at the school, for example one blind girl is able to feel textures and smell the different scents of herbs.

She encouraged other schools to enter this year and said: “It’s made a huge difference and we would not have been able to do it otherwise, we didn’t have the finances.

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“I would say just give it a go, we honestly didn’t think we were going to win but we were very lucky the community got behind us collecting tokens.”

Cliff Thomas, regional director of Leadbitter, said: “We spend a lot of time working in the education sector and we are an Oxfordshire based business so we feel this gives us an opportunity to give something back into the schools and the community.

“When it comes to fruition, the euphoria of seeing what’s achieved totally outweighs that stressful part at the beginning of trying to organise it.

“We don’t get a shortage of volunteers to help.”

To enter, schools should explain their project in at least 300 words including how it would be sustainable and what the benefits would be.

Schools are encouraged to submit drawings, photographs and statements and send them with the application form, right, to the Oxford Mail, Newspaper House, Osney Mead, OX2 0EJ by Thursday, June 14.

Shortlisted projects must not require planning permission or major structural changes, and the winning scheme will be carried out during the summer holidays.

A panel of judges from the Oxford Mail and Leadbitter will choose 10 finalists, each of whom will have their proposals showcased in the Mail.

Then it will be down to schools to start collecting tokens printed in the paper.

They will be mathematically weighted according to the size of the school to give everyone an equal chance of winning. The lucky winner will be announced in July.

With a turnover approaching £450m, the Leadbitter Group is one of the UK’s leading construction businesses, employing more than 100 people at its head office in Abingdon, and with regional offices across the South West and Wales.

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