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North Hill House appeals to local business to help create "sensory garden"

Priory’s North Hill House residential school in Somerset is asking local businesses to spare any supplies they may no longer need to create a “sensory” garden for its pupils.  

The school for children with autism, which Ofsted says offers “outstanding” results for its pupils, is hoping the garden will enhance the students’ learning by providing an outside classroom in the summer.

Ingrid Hamlet, a teacher at the school, said: “We’re looking for offcuts of plants – flowers and vegetables – maybe some compost, wood, trellis, astro-turf, even seats.  Ideally we’d also like to create a water feature of some kind.  We know local businesses are constantly turning over their stock, and maybe having a clear out. If they, or anyone else, has anything they don’t want, and think it might help us create a really special place, we would love to hear from them.”

It is hoped the sensory area will be ablaze with colour and offer a quiet place full of different textures and scents.  

Sensory gardens can offer a hugely rewarding environment for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Among some of the ideas the school has is for younger pupils to watch moss and lichen grow on walls, and see how it can be speeded up by painting surfaces with yoghurt. There is the possibility of building a chess board from natural materials, while other natural materials such as woven willow for fencing feel good to pupils with ASDs, say teachers.

Sound coming from the plants blowing in the wind, and features in the garden, will also stimulate their imagination, while moving water will make different sounds just by children placing pebbles in the flow. 

“Pupils will benefit educationally as well as socially, and will learn where food comes from and how plants grow,” Ingrid said.  “The social element of a garden is particularly important owing to the special nature of our student population.”

The garden has already been started by green-fingered enthusiasts at the school – including Ethan, 7, and Oscar, 8, who have grown plants from seed. Ingrid added: “We are making use of a courtyard previously used for storage and it is being developed by the students themselves, with us taking on board their ideas.” 

A plaque will be erected to mark the formal opening of the sensory garden and recognise the efforts of all those who give support. 

North Hill House School has been praised by Ofsted, the education watchdog, for its “outstanding” residential care, and its “outstanding” outcomes for residential pupils.  In its latest report, Ofsted said access to activities in the school and the wider community provided “excellent” opportunities for personal development and fulfilment among its students. 

Run by Priory Group Education Services, the school is an independent residential school for boys and girls aged six to 19 who have ASDs and other learning difficulties. 

For more details on Priory Education and Children's Services, please call 0118 970 8068 or click here to make an enquiry.