This isn’t just a book about a school we can all be proud of…it is a look at how education, and the way we look after young people who deserve our help and support, has changed over the last century.
Pick up this new publication from Frances and Michael Holmes of the Norwich Heritage Project and join them on a journey into the much-loved Clare School which dates back to 1907.
In her foreword, Lady Dannatt, the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, says: “Clare School is a quite remarkable place. One of Norfolk’s best kept secrets – unless you happen to be the parent, carer or foster parent of one of our most profoundly sick and disabled young people.”
She salutes the teachers, past and present, for the enormous difference they have made, and continue to make, to countless young lives.
Turn the pages to discover how we looked after our vulnerable young people once described as “mentally and physically defective.”
On the way you will meet some amazing people who feature in the story of this school described by Ofsted as: “A magical place, filled with joy and happiness, fun and laughter.”
The Clare School 1907-2023 Making Every Day Special is a certainly very special. So many people, of all ages and walks of life, come together to support the school in different ways.
It was in 2021 when Frances and Michael met headteacher Rebecca Wicks at a fundraising event and she told them school archive contained diaries from its early days. Would they like to see them and visit the school?
“We took her up on both offers and made two important discoveries. Firstly, the school really is filled with joy and happiness and also that the diaries, started in 1907, give an absolutely fascinating insight into how education for children with special needs has developed in Norwich.
“Today the school prides itself on the support it give to pupils and their families. Work it can only achieve with the generosity of fundraisers that enable the school to provide the extra facilities needed to promote independence which in turn allows each child to reach their full potential,” say the authors.
The birth of the Clare School can be traced back to October 28 1907 when a special class was opened at the form Colman Road School, now Colman School under the tutelage of Ethel M Blackburn.
There were 19 pupils, 12 of which had been transferred from a special class at Quay Side School in the centre. They were described then as “mentally defective.”
The idea of an “open-air school” was then taking place and the school was transferred to Belle Vue Open-Air School on Eaton Road, Norwich.
By 1911 the Colman Road Open-Air School was built on the site occupied by Clare School today. The head was Frederick Oxbury and there were more than 100 children. A second school called Clare House opened at New Catton.
Thanks to the diaries and Norwich Heritage Projects we can now follow the story of this school through the decades. How it developed and changed and in 1929 the new school opened.
We learn how they coped during two world wars and it features an interview I had with Terry Brock almost 20 years ago about his time as a pupil in the 1940s.
“The open-air life did help me. I was there for about a year and have happy memories. Upon arrival we were given breakfast always porridge and a mug of tea followed by a spoonful of cod liver oil.
“We had a two-course lunch which was a luxury in those days followed by a short playtime. We then collected our blanket (mine was number nine) and taken to an open building for a short nap on camp beds,” said Terry.
The Clare School 1907-2023: Making Every Day Special by Frances & Michael Holmes costs £5.95 and proceeds go to the school. It is on sale in various bookshops, including City Books, Davey Place, and on the website www.norwich-heritage.co.uk