Devon boy, 8, who can't speak leads £300k campaign

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Arthur Manners is spearheading the Arthur's Too Pool for School campaign to revamp the outdoor swimming pool at Elburton Primary School, Plymouth -Credit:Submitted

An eight year old Plymouth lad, who suffers from an ultra-rare condition that prevents him from speaking, is leading a campaign to raise £300,000 for the renovation of his school's swimming pool. Arthur Manners is the face of the 'Arthur's Too Pool for School' initiative, which aims to revamp the outdoor swimming facility at Elburton Primary School in Plymstock.

The 1970s-era outdoor pool, currently unheated and in dire need of a complete makeover, is beyond the financial capabilities of the Leaning Academies Trust, to which the school belongs. However, the trust is fully supporting the fundraising efforts initiated by Arthur and his mother, Emily Stevens-White.

Arthur is one of the very few individuals worldwide diagnosed with ETBP1 haploinsufficiency disorder, a genetic condition believed to affect only one in 100 million people. According to Emily, her son is only the second person in the UK to be diagnosed with this condition.

Arthur finds great joy and therapeutic benefits from splashing around in a pool, hence he and his mum have launched a Gofundme appeal to raise the required £300,000. The campaign has already made a promising start, with the first 79 donations amounting to £1,600.

Emily stated: "We want to completely renovate the swimming pool. It was built in the 1970s, has no heater and the filtration system is not up to scratch. Children get to use it only two or three days a year. It needs a complete overhaul, a new liner, filtration system, heater and a cover.", reports Plymouth Live.

"The school was looking at whether to fill it in. But we want to get it looking nice and usable for the community for a longer part of the year. It needs about £300,000. It's very much our fundraiser, not the school's, we are grateful for anything we can raise."

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"We want this to be done as soon as possible," she added. "Arthur is already in Year 3. If we can raise the money over the next year that would be incredible, but we are under no illusions - it's a lot of money. We'd like businesses to get on board and give support."

Arthur received his diagnosis just a year ago. Emily explained: "For Arthur it means stage two kidney disease, ureteric reflux, dyspraxia, ADHD, neurodevelopmental problems and more. Most frustratingly for Arthur it means he cannot speak, so there is a lot of frustration there".

"He's had a rocky start to his life, we spent his first years living in Derriford Hospital," she shared. "But he's a great kid, so sociable. Swimming is really good for him to build his core strength and create muscle memory. It's invaluable to Arthur and many other children, there are a lot of children that haven't got the opportunity to go swimming."

She expressed: "Arthur finds so much freedom from being in the water and not only is it great for developing his balance, strength, coordination and endurance, it's invaluable to his self esteem. In the pool he can have fun with his friends and improve social skills in a relaxed and fun environment."

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Arthur is the eldest of Emily's two sons at Elburton Primary School. Their two year old brother is likely to become a pupil in a few years time too, and Emily said Arthur loves going to the school.

She stated: "Arthur doesn't fit into a box and so whilst it is fair to say that he struggles a great deal in mainstream school, there is equally nowhere else currently better suited for him. Arthur's school has been a lifeline since he started four years ago and without their support life would have been a great deal tougher."

"Arthur's headmaster, his amazing one-to-one help and his kind and supportive teachers all go above and beyond to make it work each and every day. It would mean everything and have such a huge impact if their school pool was something they could be proud to share with the wider community including other local schools."

The Learning Academies Trust stated: "During the warmer summer months, the swimming pool at Elburton Primary School provides a brilliant opportunity for children to get active and learn to swim. Whilst we would love to carry out refurbishments to improve and heat the pool, unfortunately the cost is simply too great. As a trust, we are fully supportive of the fundraiser that has been set up and would like to thank everyone who has donated so far."