WHAT PEOPLE SAY
It is natural for any parent or carer to feel concern about the choices they make for their child’s education, but for those of us who have a child or children with special educational needs there are many additional challenges and unknowns. Fear, uncertainty and anxiety tend to be watch words for those of us who find ourselves in that situation. Cricket Green School has been a port in the storm for me and many others who find themselves navigating these choppy waters – sending my daughter to this extraordinary school was without doubt, the best decision I made for her.
The school has grown considerably in recent years, almost doubling its size in ten years, yet its caring and loving ethos has grown with it. The head teacher, Celia Dawson and her incredible staff have ensured that the things that made the school so appealing and unique when it was a small school have continued, despite its rapid growth.
Part of what makes this school so special is that it feels like a home from home, the staff are all motivated to achieve the very best from each and every child that comes through its door. Every child is known to the Head Teacher, she greets each and every one of them by name, they all without exception love her and school.
It is a place where each child counts, individual successes, no matter how small, are noticed, celebrated and built on. The school is ambitious for each child and determined that their full potential should be reached. The sense of hope and possibility cascades down to the pupils. Bullying and bad behaviour is rarely seen, the children love and respect their place of learning and the fabulous Project Search which focuses on supporting those who can, into employment has grown from strength to strength.
There is something for everyone at Cricket Green from play therapy which has provided children with everything from increased confidence to staving off mental health problems to horse riding to improve both confidence and posture. Art and drama are prominent within the curriculum and strategies are used to boost an understanding of maths and English – the emphasis is on being as independent as possible.
My daughter is a thriving, happy and wonderful person, Cricket Green has helped her find the best of herself. The sense of self worth the school ingrains in the children from the earliest years through to the fabulous sixth form is a priceless gift which will potentially hold each child in good stead for the rest of their lives. Thank you Cricket Green and its dedicated, committed staff and a special thanks you to Celia Dawson, a truly inspiring and remarkable woman!
AK joined CGS for secondary school having done his primary at a private, autism specialist school. I was really apprehensive about him coming to a LA maintained school catering for diverse special needs. But its reputation, the Head, and the reassurance that I was provided for his transition and care around his SEN statement wasn't just mere words but followed through actions that saw him go from strength to strength throughout his time there. He won several awards, was recognised and celebrated for his small wins and successes. This particular ethos of recognising and celebrating is one of the biggest things that contributed to my son's confidence and personality development into the 20-year-old he is today. The access to experienced teachers and TAs who had autism training and understood him well was of paramount significance to his achievement of his targets.
He went swimming and horse riding weekly and looked forward to going to school all the way to 6th form every day. As a single parent, not only did the school provide the due care they had to for him but the support and understanding I was provided in juggling the many challenges of working full time and managing my son is worth recognising and something I will always be grateful for.
Merton is fortunate to have a school like CGS and CGS is fortunate to have a head teacher like Celia who I would say is visible in the community as a leader and inspirational woman I have had the privilege of meeting in my lifetime.
I am emailing you to confirm that my last day at the school will be Friday, the 10th of March.
I would like to thank all of you for all your support, patience and understanding. Cricket Green is a lovely school and I'll always remember my students that made me days brighter. Thank you for accepting me into your family and apologies for leaving you so early.
HEADTEACHER OF LOCAL SCHOOL
Thank you Celia and Bonnie! We really appreciate you making the visit so positive for mum and Y. He is a lovely boy who really needs an opportunity to shine and we know there is no better place than your amazing school for that!
MUSIC CO-ORDINATOR AT A
Cricket Green and their teacher are just phenomenal. She had at least 2 of the teachers in tears with how well they performed. I’ve picked up tips from seeing Soo and her work with the children. Very nerve wracking as a non specialist music teacher but seeing how great Cricket Green were and with help from Soo has made me feel a little more confident in how to deliver singing.
When our head asked me to write about school I did not know where to begin as it is a place that has woven itself into my heart so I must use my head to convey just how special a school this really is.
My son was aged 5 and we had taken him to visit every school within a 20 mile radius. We were becoming down heartened as everywhere we visited had felt wrong. Lots of schools had friendly teachers, fantastic facilities, super hi-tech and great ofsteds but none of them had made me feel - "I can see him here."
The strange thing about Cricket Green is that I had been forewarned that it was lacking in facilities, tired and busy and I assumed we would be in and out and I would cross it off my list. The head showed us around but took a back seat and allowed my son, the other students and staff we encountered to dictate the visit. I watched my son be invited or tolerated by the other students and staff to join in with their tasks or games and nobody rejected him or made him feel unwelcome. From the outset I could both hear and see that the school's philosophy was not how they could mitigate for my sons lack of ability but instead how they wanted to facilitate anything he might choose to attempt. The structure at Cricket Green is light touch allowing students the opportunity for chance encounters which is an ideal environment for offering a broad curricula. The ethos of the school is a belief in offering all students the opportunity to engage with as much as they wish to try and this makes the students happy and confident. If an education achieves only those 2 qualities then as far as I am concerned its job done. At the end of the visit one of the lads asked my son if he was joining the school and he vigorously nodded yes - being non verbal.
It appears to me a lot of schools are painting by numbers - which can produce some very pretty pictures - but I think the difference is that Cricket Green actually enjoys taking on the bumble bees who - in case you didn't know - can see colours we normal folks can't.
We have just had to leave Cricket Green, which I am still terribly upset about but I am grateful for all the years we had. I know my son would not be the man he is today had we had not been lucky enough to find his perfect fit. I know it is luck and I do understand that the school may not suit everyone but I recommend reading "welcome to Holland" - the essay on coming to terms with raising a disabled child/ google it - then you will understand when I say that Cricket Green is Holland on steroids and my child was so happy that I never gave Italy another thought. In fact I would go so far as to say I feel sorry for people who have not had the type of education my son had - be they disabled or not- one in which they could be appreciated and celebrated for what they can do, not what they can't. It is simply the best school EVER.
PS - pass the tissue box
Former Teaching Assistant
Essentially I'd just like to express my sincere thanks for taking me on at CGS this last year. Please do trust that I've picked my words carefully: it really has been one of the most inspiring, dynamic and enriching years of my professional life, and (perhaps surprisingly) one of the most musically creative and fulfilling.
I hope it has been worth it for you despite my many absences and relative lack of experience when I started. I hope I have done a good job of supporting pupils in their learning and welfare, and I know I would do a lot of things differently with a year's experience under my belt. I have learnt so much from the experience and wisdom of the staff, the training courses, and of course from working with the unique personalities of the pupils in Topaz and across the school. Every day has brought challenges of consequence and funny moments of great joy. I have written quite a lot of it down.
I would have loved to stay at CGS if circumstances allowed. Slightly chaotic in superficial ways (e.g. room booking systems!), the school's deep priorities could not shine through more clearly, even in the last exceptionally challenging year. The school community radiates common sense, kindness, humour, compassion, aspiration and positivity towards pupils - crucially - and towards staff - almost as crucially! Standing on the gate waiting for pupils in the mornings, I have always been struck by how happy the pupils are to come into school, and how warmly the staff welcome them. I think that's a fairly good measure of a place!
Former Teaching Assistant
I want to thank you for the opportunity offered to me to be part of the family at Cricket Green School and work in such an amazing school, and all other future opportunities.
I recall my first unsuccessful interview at Cricket Green in 2013 and my opinion of the school was ' A school but Better' and that has not changed . Although I was unsuccessful at the time , somewhere in my heart I believed the timing was off and that another opportunity will present itself and in 2015, it did.
I have enjoyed everyday life at Cricket Green School and I have grown and developed in understanding and knowledge on working with people in general (young and old) and for that I am eternally grateful.
There is this euphoric expression which suggests that when you work with heroes, you are elevated.
Cricket Green school is an organisation with heroes and working here has inspired and motivated me to follow my dreams.
As previously discussed, I have applied for general primary teacher training at Kingston University.
I will cherish the amazing memories forever.
Thank you so very much for having me as your first visitor today. I hugely appreciated the lengthy time you gave me to discuss both the school and my daughter.
What fabulous staff and what engaged and happy children many of whom were just full of fun and personality - even on first impression having the courage to come up to a visitor which I think is fabulous.
Both my impression and yours was really that although the school would be in many ways a freeing and joyful place for my daughter (she would love the dog, chickens, dome, playground and outside space especially) her ability in many senses is more significant than many of the Cricket Green children and her communication and social interaction needs are different. Her challenges just being of a different kind.
I wanted so badly for your school to be the right one! My hope anyway is that I find a school as joyful, inclusive, stimulating and caring as Cricket Green but more aimed at her needs and ability, because undoubtedly your school and staff and pupils should be very proud of themselves and it is a beacon on so many levels.
It was lovely to 'come back' to Cricket Green again, first for Ange's retirement do and then for today's film festival. Both occasions were a real pleasure, and brought back to me in full force just what an amazing place Cricket Green is.
Two things struck me - first, the extraordinary creativity and energy of the staff, and second, the sheer enjoyment of all the children in the films. It reminds me of everything I loved about being part of the CGS team. You are all wonderful. Keep doing what you are doing.
After 12 years of living in England, it has now come the time for us to relocate back to our family home in Australia. We cannot begin to tell you how hard it is to relocate Cam from Cricket Green.
Although we have one of the best special schools in Australia in mind for him, what you have all done to enrich Cam's life is indescribable.
From the beginning and each and every day both Cam, my wife & I attended CGS, it’s felt like a blessing. In Cam's 6 short years of life we have never felt more accepted, cared for and welcome. Your staff, students and community you have is going to be missed greatly but never forgotten.
CGS is one of the best environments Cam has had to thrive and be himself. Thank-you for opening your arms and accepting him into your school.
We are Dutch-German family and were looking for the next kind, caring and nurturing school for our son.
We did that already for over a year without any success as we only looked at private schools - not being aware there is layer of very good state schools. As a result Max was outgrowing his old school. Fortunately we were then hinted to look into state schools and got the most impressive help by Merton Council and fairly soon by Cricket Green School.
Our son visited Cricket Green only for half an hour and after that he was just fine to go to school by his own by bus. He did not miss his old environment but loved his new one where he was warmly welcomed by pupils and teachers: impressive! He started to work hard and was engaged.
What we liked about this school was: the people in charge, from the headmistress to the new help, were all very accommodating and more importantly they were willing to let 'things flow' while at the same time having very high standards and personal engagement to enforce brilliant social & learning behaviour. Every child could be
her/himself while having the guidance to become a socially responsible person.
Having seen a number of schools I immediately had felt the same way as Max and am still impressed: Cricket Green leaves room for each person with his/her individual challenge(s) while being part of a socially intact group willing to learn for life.
We would never have left Cricket Green if we did not move back to Germany!
Our son, Aidan, with his complex needs and sensory issues, came to Cricket Green in Year 7 as a reluctant and anxious learner, very unsure of his environment. Now in Year 10, Aidan is emerging as a much happier and more confident learner. He looks forward to attending school every day. The focused teaching in small size classes and the individual care and attention given by all staff are second to none.
Cricket Green is a nurturing, safe and supportive environment in which learners are encouraged to grow, as evidenced by the pupils’ smiling faces and their happy demeanour. Teachers always make time to relate to the pupils and encourage them to be expressive. How many schools can a pupil openly go into the Head Teacher’s office to empty the recycling bin and have a chat, or have a regular lunchtime slot with the Deputy Head for a catch up?!
Aidan is learning and growing tremendously. We are thankful to Cricket Green’s nurturing environment where teaching and supports are tailored to each pupil’s needs and strengths and where open parent-teacher relationships are welcomed. Sitting in a recent Annual Review meeting surrounded by an amazing team of six professionals all discussing and caring about our child’s development and progress, we could not help but think how fortunate Aidan is to have such wonderful support through his education.
A shining example of an outstanding special school, but you don’t need me to tell you that!
I just wanted to say a huge thank you for the fortnight's work experience at Cricket Green School. The time spent was invaluable, both from being able to observe the methods used to teach children with different special educational needs and from being able to feel 'part of the team' for the short while. The students and staff alike gave the school such a nice atmosphere and it was really fun to work there.
I am particularly grateful to Ellie for letting me into her classroom, Green class were such a pleasure to work with and made a very positive impact on me. It was fantastic to see Ellie work with the children in the way she does - if a little daunting to show me what I need to learn! Megan and Vera were also fantastic and I learnt a lot from them - so please pass on my gratitude once again to the three ladies.
If ever I had time in the future and you were on the look out for volunteers, it would be a pleasure to work at Cricket Green again.
Now that it is time for Nina to say goodbye and move on to a 6th Form College, I would like to express my gratitude to you and all the staff at Cricket Green for making her time at school such a happy and memorable one. I can't thank you all enough for the work that the staff have done with Nina and the great progress she has made due to this. You all care for our children as if they were your own!! I love the way that you celebrate every single little success pupils have because you know just how hard and long they had to work to achieve it and I know that every success that Nina will go on to have is a result of the foundations you helped lay.
I am so pleased that I chose to send Nina to Cricket Green in year 7, she was always happy to come to school and the whole experience has been a very positive one. She is leaving with skills that will benefit her for the rest of her life, and with the confidence and ability to travel independantly. Nina is now ready to make the transition to an F E-College and hopefully, they will be able to build upon the skills she has acquired to date.
I'm sure Nina will be visiting you guys from time to time as I know she will miss you all so much.
I would like to wish you continued success in your role as Headteacher, you do a phenomenal job.
We would like to thank all of the staff at Cricket Green for helping Rebecca* throughout her journey at Cricket Green.
You have all inspired Rebecca* and us and made her flourish and grow into the person she is now.
We are greatful for the support and kindness you have shown and we hope you continue to be the inspiration for years to come!
EPS Staff Visit
Thank you SO much for the wonderful visit this morning. We were all blown away by your amazing school and community and left feeling very inspired.
Thank you for finding the time to share your practice and provision with us and we hope to cross paths again soon.
'To each and every one at Cricket Green School,
'Thank you' seems such an insignificant word when we are trying to express how we feel about everything you have contributed in one year, to improve Cliff's self-confidence and his self-belief, through all the responsibilities given to him and opportunities you created for him to do work experience.
It has been such a fantastic year for him. He settled in well and was so excited when 'Cliff's Tech Services' was created for him to do his work experience in computing. He was equally happy when he was assigned playground duties and thoroughly enjoyed doing that too. He was blessed with a lovely class and has made new friends. With the after-school clubs he learnt so much more, formed friendships and improved his social skills.
Being at Cricket Green School has had such a positive influence to his life and well-being. He has flourished into a confident, happy young man, willingly taking on tasks and seeing them through. He has mixed feelings leaving Cricket Green School but he leaves with the knowledge that he can return next year to do work experience, so it does not seem so final.
Cliff did the cards all by himself, writing his personal messages on the computer which he then transferred to the cards. Those were his own thoughts about each of you.
As his parents, we are so grateful for the opportunity you gave to Cliff to complete his final year in education. You have all gone 'above and beyond' to welcome him and give him so many wonderful opportunities that he will hold you all dearly in his memory. We are also fully aware that each of you have played your part and left a lasting positive impression on Cliff. We are very proud of Cliff and you have just made us even prouder parents.
So once again, 'THANK YOU' and we wish you all the very best for the future and as long as Cliff is around he will be talking about you for years.'
Our family did not live for more than a year in London, but it was still a life changing experience. Most of all for our youngest son who has ASD. Until he came to Cricket Green he had been in a main stream school.
He has always liked school, but never really found his place or his voice. Cricket Green gave him both. In the beginning he was uncomfortable, new school, new faces. After two months we started to see big changes. “He has really come out of his shell” was the tune from all his teachers then. He has not looked back. There is no armour left. He does not need it.
One could argue and say that he has become older, but it was such a significant change over a very short period of time.
His confidence, his voice, his self esteem, his knowledge, his assessments, his behaviour and his skills. They all changed to in such a positive way. Suddenly we had a confident boy who knew who he was and what he wanted.
As a teacher I recognize every aspect of a good and safe learning and teaching environment. Every member of staff I have met have impressed me with their care, kindness, skills and professional behaviour. I felt that I was part of a team. This is essential for any parent.When my son sang at the summer concert I did not dry my eyes for hours. No-one in my family believed what they saw. I have always been proud of my son, but never prouder.
In my humble opinion the year at Cricket Green changed all our lives profoundly.
PROJECT SEARCH STUDENT PLACEMENTS
I really loved the video too Annie, I thought it was so good of Richard Brown to make a video of us ladies working so hard at Project Search & adding you & Beth & Catherine it shows how passionate we are at Project Search & taking part in a lot of workplacements that is how much we have achieved & matured a lot since Project Search first started Annie, thanks for supporting me so much in my time at Project Search Annie, it really has been great working with you Annie, hope to continue working with you in the future Annie, thank you & can you possibly tell Mrs Dawson too it has been a lot of fun & that she has been so great to me, she was the one who got me to go on Project Search Annie. Thanks.
All my life I've been volunteering and haven't been paid, when I look at my bank account for the first time and see the money, it will feel like my birthday! It is rewarding. This is the one job I like, when I get up in the morning I want to work. This is my dream job, you walk around, you get to know everyone, everyone’s friendly.
I hope all is well with yourself and the school. I've been meaning to send this email to you for some time...
I'd like to say a huge "thank you" to you for all the work you have done to give these kids both at Cricket Green school and at Project Search a massive chance and opportunity to take part in life... I can honestly say that for myself it has been a huge relief to know that my son has been within an environment where he was able to feel secure and free from pressure and he has come a very long way since first attending Cricket Green school. The placement opportunity at Project Search was also sorely needed in his life as after leaving college there really was little opportunity for him to find work and he was rather floundering in a world he finds hard to fathom and now, thanks purely to the project and the opportunity it gave him, he has found worthwhile employment in an environment also where people are concerned with him.
I have to say here that he sometimes isn't as appreciative of this as I would like him to be and on occasion I have had to have a few words of encouragement with him but the fact he has a job has been,and is, of benefit to him and his confidence has grown too. His knowledge on all sorts of subjects is at times astonishing to hear... this is all down to his attending the project and the difference in how he was a year ago and now is great to see.
Once again, a huge thank you for all the work you have done and continue to do.
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to work at CGS. You have been very supportive throughout my time here. I wouldn't have been able to balance my education and job without your continuous support. Being a teaching assistant at CGS has provided me with beneficial and wonderful experiences. I am very fond of the school and the work you do. I started this job as a young woman, and it has helped me grow. CGS also has a huge place in my heart because it has helped my brother with special needs flourish and grow into a confident young man.
Initially, my interest in working at CGS was from the curiosity behind my brother's smile. Ever since he's been there, he has been relentlessly grinning. It wasn't like this before; when attending mainstream, he was unhappy, and it was a battle getting him to go in. But when it comes to CGS, he was never late; it wasn't a battle. It was no longer Mum continuously asking him to get ready but him shouting at us to hurry up to get him into school. He has also found his voice and has started talking confidently ever since. And that smile……… Well, it has been there every day now.
I wanted to know what was so good about CGS that it could make those changes. At 16, you gave me the opportunity to do work experience, giving me a great insight into the tremendous school environment. It was just what special needs children require: very supportive staff that made each child feel comfortable. I began to understand why my brother loved attending school and was so happy. The sense of community was so strong. It was nurturing, allowing children to grow. I was so amazed I wanted to be part of the staff helping these children that I returned at 18 as a teaching assistant. The students and staff alike gave the school such a lovely atmosphere, and it was enjoyable to work here.
I am particularly grateful to the 6th form team for helping me excel in my job role and encouraging me. I have learnt from the best. I have also observed the best school, and I will always be delighted to have had the chance to work here. Neomi