Gerry and Joanne arrived at the Seashell Trust campus where they have a school, college, and residential blocks. They were met by Dominic Tinner and he explained about some of the history of the school. At the beginning it was founded to educate deaf children and was opened in Salford but then moved to old Trafford. However, when old Trafford become industrialised the trustees bought the current sight in south Manchester, Cheadle - it’s a 50 acre site. The charity has also moved from looking after deaf children of normal intellects to children who often are deaf and have no ability to communicate verbally and also have other very serve disabilities and many complex needs.
Gerry and Joanne then met the Chief Executive Mark, he explained that all of the children had been born with brain damage and even the most able have little or no communication ability. They all have severe profound multiple medical conditions with complex needs for example deaf, blind and epilepsy.
An interesting point in the story was a company called Epicure stated that there are more premature babies born in the UK than anywhere else in Europe.
The seashell trust school and college have long waiting lists and only take on the most severe disabled children. However, the school has increased the numbers from 34 to 50 students and the college has increased from 44 to 77 students. Overall they look after 127 children, but as the students have multiple disabilities it needs 500 staff to look after them.
Gerry and Alex, age 8
Obviously the school has to be funded – in addition to the staffing of the school and college, the day time residential care means that there are carers who look after the children throughout the day and night and are not able to sleep during that time. The children could have any requirement at any time during the evening as mentioned earlier epilepsy. Most often children are placed by the local authority and because the Seashell Trust is the national centre of excellence, children come from any where all over the country.
A day pupil costs around £70,000 a year, and a student who requires the entire package (residential care staying on site) costs £400,000 a year. However, the fees only pay for the staff costs; the rest has to be fund raised.
The first class room Gerry and Joanne entered had 5 students, the youngest of the school age in the seashell trust school. They require one-to-one care, and the children were all different, some were active some were not, some had basic communication skills but were not able to say anything but used sign language to express themselves, some children were very inactive. The spectrum of the disability in that classroom was one the highest ability groups, and throughout the school many children had more severe conditions.
Dominic explained that the school was built in the 1960s and the plan for the school is to improve all facilities e.g. roof of the corridors, automatic doors, softer lightening - as strong lighting can cause behavioural changes in autistic children.
Gerry and Chloe, age 8
The tour continued to the residential homes and the Trust has seventeen four bed houses/bungalows. Each house is made into a home environment with a bedroom, laundry room, kitchen and garage to store all the equipment they need, wheelchair etc. Each house also has a sensory room to relax the children. Each room has hoisting facilities and en suite. One girls room was beautifully decorated by her mum, she was from North Wales, and an interesting part was the sink and cooker were adjustable in height to allow her to learn how to cook and look after herself. The aim is to help the children live independently and at some point return to their local area, and to be looked after by their local organisation that provides support to them. Each house has a number of staff working three shifts from morning 7am-3pm, 3pm-11pm, 11pm-7.30am and there is an office where the staff can work.
The trust has many projects including creating an early assessment centre, many children with disabilities are not properly diagnosed for some time, often it’s got to go through GPs, specialised children hospitals and local hospitals and its very stressful for the parents. And not good for the children either, and early intervention may help, so setting up the centre can help children be diagnosed at a very early stage.
Gerry asked if any of the children visit the Trafford Centre which is a disabled friendly environment, and some children do visit and Gerry offered the children the facilities in our Yang Sing Cathay restaurant for the students to experience Chinese food.
Gerry also suggested that Dominic should have a look at the Greater Manchester High Sheriff Police Trust to see whether they can access any funding from there.
Gerry and Joanne were given a little gift - a fish in a clay tablet made by the students.
And the photo credits go to Tony Carter!
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