Friday Hero

7th February 2003 at 00:00
Dave Williams is the site manager at Rachel Madocks special school in Waterlooville, Hampshire

This is a school for children and students aged two to 19 with multiple and profound learning difficulties. Their needs range from severe autism to visual and hearing impairment to challenging behaviour. Around 20 are in wheelchairs. All of them know Dave Williams - in fact "they love him to bits", says their headteacher, Chrys Browne, who nominated him for our flowers, champagne and chocolates. "Our most challenging lads think of him as their pal while the children who can't speak just smile at him and you know they think he's brilliant."

She says Dave is a key member of the staff team, "sharing our vision".

Chrys has been in special needs for 30 years but, like Dave, she arrived at Rachel Madocks only three years ago. Since then one of the biggest changes has been the introduction of after-school clubs, a Saturday club and summer holiday opening of the hydrotherapy pool.

"Whatever we ask of him he's prepared to try. He helps with swimming, drives the minibus and knows many of our families." Before and after school, Dave directs the steady flow of cars, buses and ambulances taking the children to and fro. "It's also his chance to talk to parents and he has a great knowledge of our children's lives."

Last summer a pupil referral unit on the same site burned down and Dave was first on the scene. "He was wonderful in supporting the staff and in helping everyone with the rebuild. He isn't phased by anything."

That is obviously true, as, for the past two years, he has played "an excellent panto dame" in the end-of-term show. He's guaranteed a part for the rest of his career.

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