Sunday, 8 November 2009

MY VISIT TO MORE HOUSE SCHOOL







On 6 November I ventured down to Surrey to visit More House School. This school can support any boy of average ability, who would benefit from an individualised learning programme but it has particular success with boys who have specific learning difficulties. Many of the children who attend experience variations of Autistic Spectrum Disorders, including ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), Dysphraxia, Dyslexia and Asperger’s syndrome. Some also have speech and language problems. I was invited to go and talk to them because of my own teenage troubles coping with Asperger’s and my success as a writer.

The school complex itself is incredible. It is set in an area with plenty of greenery, has lovely wood buildings, a heated outdoor pool, a drama building, a music centre, and impressive live-in apartments.

Some of the children have experienced great difficulty fitting in at a mainstream school being classed as disruptive or difficult to teach. I really didn’t see these traits in the children I had contact with, and this is largely thanks to the approach taken by the teachers. They recognise that each child is an individual with specific requirements. Their teaching methods reflect the individual needs of each child.

When I arrived, the children in the Juniors had been prepped. Miss Gordon (Head of Lower School) had already taken them through the prologue of Anne Droyd and Century Lodge and the bit in chapter three where Anne breaks out of the box. Inspired by this, the youngsters had drawn book covers and their own android. They are to feature in a display in the library with photos of my visit!

Upon arriving, I was spotted by a boy and he shouted, “He’s here! He’s here!” The excitement was tangible.

Fifty boys were assembled in a small hall and I spoke to them about my own school experiences and how I would have thrived if I’d have gone to a school like theirs. I also showed them the benefits of writing in a way that they would grasp. I showed them Doctor Who Weekly (still published today as Doctor Who Magazine) and my competition entry at the age of nine. I showed them my Blue Peter badge and highlighted that these cannot be bought in shops. One has to write into the programme to stand a chance of being awarded one. And I finished by telling them about my appearances on television, which again were achieved by writing letters.

Accompanied by Miss Gordon and my PR Theresa Cutts, I had lunch with the children, one of which sat at our table and told me the history of Lego! Another spoke to me about the Doctor Who comic strip he’s been writing. I was then given a tour of the school’s impressive grounds.

After lunch, while waiting to do my first lesson, I was mobbed in a corridor by children wanting autographs. It was quite an experience. It was also very humbling, that I’d had that much of an impact on them.

In the first lesson I chatted with and read to 25 youngsters, aged eight to ten. The second lesson involved slightly older children. Both groups were enthusiastic and full of questions about the book, writing and what Anne gets up to in the story. They loved the bit where Anne deals with the school bully!

The day finished with Miss Gordon handing out certificates to those who had achieved a high standard of learning and/or good personal character development that week. I presented the certificates as each child came forward. The boys that had produced the best book covers and had made a great contribution to the day, were awarded signed Anne Droyd posters, while all the children received Anne Droyd badges. Then I signed autographs for those children who had not reached me when I was mobbed earlier! It was a joy to see how thrilled the winners were and how pleased for them the other pupils were.

Throughout the day, I sensed that things were going well, but didn’t realise how well until the very end. A teacher told me I’d caused quite a stir and that one of the boys who normally showed little interest in reading had asked to order my books. It was a fantastic feeling to know that along with Anne Droyd, I had inspired those not normally interested in reading into wanting to discover more.

Letters have been sent to parents explaining that their child can have a signed copy of one or both Anne Droyd books if they order.

There has already been talk of me possibly going back and doing it again. I feel honoured to have made such an impression and would welcome the opportunity for a repeat visit.

I would like to thank my PR for organising it!

Here is a link to the More House web site: http://www.morehouseschool.com/

And here is a link to my TV appearance from 1998: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsJL56FDefA

6 comments:

Theresa said...

Will,
It was great to watch you really inspire the children. Their excitement and enthusiasm was wonderful to see. Not only has Anne found some new fans, you have helped to encourage them to take a look inside a book! A great achievement.

It may have been a long day but the effect you had on them was worth it. Well done! A great day.

Will Hadcroft said...

Thanks Theresa. And thanks for setting up the visit. It accomplished so much, for them and for me.

Ian Wheeler said...

Will has many interesting anecdotes regarding his experences as a writer but I think this is now my favourite. Well done, Will, you deserved such a positive experience. Ian.

Will Hadcroft said...

Thanks Ian. Your support means a lot to me.

Tania said...

My son was one of those listening to you at More House. He really enjoyed your visit to the school - thank you so much for taking your time to visit!

Will Hadcroft said...

Hi Tania,

Thanks for getting in touch. Sorry it's taken so long for me to reply. I usually get email notifications when someone posts to the site, but for some reason it didn't happen this time.

I'm so glad I had that much of an impact. I tried my best to pitch it on their level and inspire them.

I have a subtle expression of Asperger's myself, and in my school years found recognising that I saw the world differently to my peers, but not always being able to fathom why, very frustrating.

So I have an affinity with people on the spectrum, youngsters more so.

More House would have been perfect for me.

These days, thanks to my wife and thanks to sessions with a psychologist, I handle myself and others better than ever. But I haven't forgotten how I used to be, and am keen to show youngsters there is light at the end of the tunnel.