David - A parent’s story
"It was a battle to get David* into Unsted Park eight years ago. I struggled to get him assessed, to get him statemented and then, following a successful Tribunal appearance, to get the County Council to agree that he could attend a school that could meet his complex needs. But it was a battle worth fighting.
From the moment David started at Unsted back in October 2007, one of the very first students at the school, all our lives changed for the better. I knew straight away it was the right environment for David, somewhere where he felt safe and supported. I cannot praise the school and its staff enough for the patience they have shown and the support they have given us over the years.
David has achieved so much more than I dared hope and has grown up into a wonderful young man - full of potential for the future, and Unsted have played a huge role in this."
Steven - A parent’s story
“Today is full of mixed feelings; fear, sadness, excitement and pride as my son Steven* moves to University to train as a social worker.
The irony of his chosen path has not for one moment passed me by knowing over the years how he has tested the patience of a saint let alone his teachers and care workers. I only hope they are now laughing knowing the shoe is going to be on the other foot!
We have seen many changes given Steven was one of the very first pupils to start at Unsted Park. We saw it change from a building site as we clambered over rolls of carpets, pots of paints and scaffolding on our very first visit in to a thriving school. We've also seen off numerous principals, teachers, care workers and staff.
Today was a day I thought would never come when I reflect on my son’s challenges and concerns for his future. It is never easy being a parent and learning on the job, but even harder when your child has special needs. I knew he had a mountain to climb needing the help of fantastic staff who initially carried him, then pushed him, walked alongside him as he occasionally fell and finally guiding him to reach his summit. I just hope other pupils look to Steven as a role model and are able achieve their aspirations like him. But it takes hard work and establishing a partnership with all those who only have the student's best interests at heart.
Finally my biggest emotion today is just overwhelming gratitude to all those staff who supported, taught and cared for my son - some staff remain, others have moved on.”
Chris - A parent’s story
“When we visited Unsted all those years ago, my son Chris* said 'if I came here I won’t be a pebble on the sand anymore' and that has how it’s been. He has been accepted for who he is, not punished for his anxiety but understood and supported. It has been a joy (and a relief) to be at a school that understands him without me having to explain all the time, a school that believes in him and respects what we say as parents, is approachable and listens to him and to us.
My son is not good at expressing his thoughts but when I asked him what he has got out of being at Unsted he said 'loads'. He said what has been good is being made welcome and better understood and I think that sums up his experience particularly well.
There have been some key staff that I know have made a difference, his math’s teacher is 'cool' and she must be his favourite person at Unsted and his success at maths reflects the respect he has for her. There are lots of staff who have been very important to his wellbeing and helped him when he was struggling being away from home – they have helped to get the best out of him.
I also have appreciated the support from the care team and their efforts to get my son to eat and join in activities. For us as parents, it has been most valuable to have someone to listen to us who also has our son’s best interest at heart and when we have had concerns, we have been supported to support him as well as the work done at school. He has made good friends at Unsted, which I doubt he would have ever done in mainstream and hopefully he will keep in touch with them after he leaves.
Our son is hopefully going to Reading College in September, but we feel privileged that he has had the opportunity to have attended Unsted which has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.”
Thank you to everyone!
Sam - A parent’s story
“My son Sam came to Unsted Park eight years ago having been out of school for over a year at home. Although a wrench for me as his mum to let him go into residential at Unsted and a big adjustment for him aged eight years old and being away from home, having a sensory programme put into place straight away by OT with additional one-to-one support from the staff, his demeanour and personality slowly changed and developed into a confident, outgoing, caring, sensitive and independent young man with a purpose in life and a goal to aim for throughout his college and university years.
He has grown in maturity at Unsted with the help from a main keyworker both in residential and in school which has meant he was able to learn to accept and to adapt to his Tourette’s/autism in a positive manner.
From a depressed lonely little boy aged eight who could not cope with a busy mainstream primary school, into a young man who is starting mainstream college in September to study A-Levels aged 16 is a massive achievement and a milestone we thought we would never see.
I do feel that for a student to leave school is a big hurdle to get over and they have all succeeded with the help of the teachers/support workers and most importantly the parents who carry on regardless with the teaching once school has finished for the day. A child can achieve anything in life if they are given the opportunity and support.
If someone was to ask me what two words I would think of which helped my son at Unsted it would have to be routine and communication - Priceless for anyone with autism.”
*Names have been changed to protect individual identities