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Pupils I'll never forget

Jennie Rollings sees an amazing transformation in the garden

I've been at Palatine school for 15 years. I remember Cosimo when he started aged five or six; he's in Year 11 now. Cosimo has cerebral palsy and a weakness on his left side which means he has very little use of his left hand, arm and foot. He has hydrocephalus and he is also epileptic. But he's someone that really stands out because of his incredible enthusiasm.

Over the years we have developed an area of the school grounds into a series of gardens with three ponds. The children have been involved in every stage of the work, and Cosimo has been part of the team since the first project, which was to build a "quiet" garden.

He will find ways of doing things that are quite incredible. He has made his weak hand into a kind of tool. He has learned to use a spade, which is a difficult skill to master even with two good hands. The thing he likes doing more than anything else is using spades and wheelbarrows, the physical side of gardening. As a little boy he was unsteady. He has built up strength from working in the garden that I don't think he would have developed if he had been through a normal curriculum. Amazingly, a couple of years ago he learned to ride a bike without stabilisers.

He is a happy, cheerful lad. He doesn't let setbacks bother him. And it doesn't matter what the weather is like; he'll get his coat and wellies on and get stuck in. When we have open days he always acts as a guide. He has been asking me since Christmas when the next open days are; that's the sort of enthusiasm he has.

A lot of people who don't have Cosimo's difficulties don't have his motivation. The school's motto is "I can and I will" and the garden's motto is "Green fingers and growing minds". They are both things you could apply to him. It has been wonderful to watch how he has progressed. I hope when he leaves us in June his enthusiasm and determination will carry him through.

Jennie Rollings teaches at Palatine school, an all age school for children with moderate learning difficulties, in Worthing, West Sussex. The next open day for the school's award winning gardens is on June 13. She was talking to Harvey McGavin. Do you have special memories of unforgettable pupils? Write to Sarah Bayliss at the address on page 3 or email sarah.bayliss

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