Bouquet of the week
Parents can be teachers' greatest allies. They are often overwhelmed with gratitude when a particular teacher has made all the difference to their growing child. How can we thank you enough? is the question they ask, especially at the end of an academic year. And when they are the parents of children with special needs they say it with more feeling than the rest of us.
At Stanley Infant School in the London borough of Richmond, Christopher Boyton, aged seven, is looking forward to September when he will be integrated into a junior school down the road. His teacher for the past three years has been Carolyn Forsyth, head of Stanley Infants' special unit - known as Diamond class. Christopher, who has growth and developmental delay, has learned to speak more fluently, to write and to enjoy other achievements which seemed impossible when he was four.
"When he started school he couldn't even hold a pencil," says his mother Mrs Karin Boyton who nominated Carolyn Forsyth for this week's Bouquet of the Week. "She has such skill and patience in helping a child to achieve his absolute best."
Diamond class takes a maximum of 10 children with a very wide range of disabilities - Downs', hearing, growth, behavioural, emotional - but with the aim of integrating them into mainstream, usually after three years. According to Christopher's mum, it has "a unique, supportive atmosphere which all who visit it can sense as soon as they open the door."
Carolyn came to the school six years ago as an early years teacher with a special needs diploma. She talks about her interest in the job, her knowledge of the children and developing the strengths of her "super" team of support assistants, an integration teacher and visiting therapists. Richmond is a supportive authority, too. "I've always been interested in meeting the individual's needs and felt the frustrations of the class teacher. Here I can work with the whole child which is incredibly satisfying," she says.
Headteacher Elaine England has been at Stanley Infants only a year but says she has always valued the teaching expertise in Diamond class. "Carolyn is an inspiration to us all - she's an incredibly patient teacher and she's extremely knowledgeable about current thinking in special needs. She keeps us all up to date."
So, congratulations to Carolyn Forsyth and her super team and good luck to Christopher.