Now that its staffing has been cut by more than a third, it offers a pared-down service with formal teaching in the mornings that is targeted at long-stay and recurrent-entry children. But when I visited, an hour before lunch, I found a generous professionalism and teaching that seemed well integrated with the medical care. Although adhering to the national curriculum is not a legal requirement in hospital schools, it has been welcomed here for the structure and continuity (this school's key word) it gives. Four primary-age children were doing a project on newspapers and the secondary-age pupils worked on curriculum-linked projects provided by their home schools.
The children were busy and most looked happy. Among them are the healthy brothers and sisters of those undergoing bone-marrow transplants. They are in the hospital to keep their siblings company and provide the sense of normality that will speed recovery. It is a measure of Avon's generosity that they are still welcomed, even though recouping costs is difficult.
During a busy lunch hour, the teachers phoned schools to discuss pupils' progress or to lay plans for home-tuition sessions. In between, they talked of "differentiation" - the mix of subjects, ages and abilities they must deal with - and the "decision fatigue" that goes with it. Viewed by the outsider, the school seemed a bright, coherent place which ensures that sick children (and their brothers and sisters) get the continuity of education which illness threatens.