James Brindley School
Do you like the sound of a school where there's no uniform, you call teachers by their first names and you get to chat to wicked people around the world by video link? You do? Then welcome to the James Brindley School (JBS) – the largest hospital school in the world.
Whether you're going to be in hospital for a day, a week, a month or longer, if you usually go to school it's important you don't miss out on your education.
JBS teachers take over from your own school teachers. You can go to lessons in one of the classrooms, or teachers can come to the ward to teach you.
Although JBS follows the National Curriculum, lessons are made as fun and interesting as possible. There are loads of opportunities for IT work, including video conferencing. In the past, children have talked to some amazing people in other countries. They have put questions to astronauts at NASA headquarters in America and chatted to divers on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
"In many ways, James Brindley is similar to your normal school," explains Dave Hampton, Assistant Head of Sector. "But there are differences. The classes are smaller than average – there are no more than 15 pupils in each – and lots of children get one-to-one tuition on the wards. We can also teach them in small groups in ward play rooms."
You may be a different age and have a different medical condition from lots of the kids at JBS, but one thing you have in common is that you're all poorly. And that can create a bond between you and lead to some great new friendships.
What's brilliant about the school is that as well as continuing your education, it also gives you something to do – because being in hospital can be quite boring at times, especially if you have to be in a room on your own to protect you from infection. But you don't have to be ill to go to JBS. Some children go because they have a poorly brother or sister and can't get to their own school.
All the teachers are used to working with children who are sick. They know what it takes to get kids interested in learning, even if they're not feeling well.
"It's about motivation," explains Primary Lead Teacher Kirsty Hopson. "If we turned up with a pile of work sheets, you can imagine the response. Our teachers find ways to make learning as varied and enjoyable as possible."
The school's IT facilities are really cool. There are loads of computers - Macs and PCs - in the classrooms and a huge screen in the video conferencing room. On every ward, including intensive care, there is IT access beside every bed. That means that even if you can't get to the school, you still have access to video conferencing, the internet and nearly 400 programs the school provides free of charge.
"We supply laptops as well as computers on trolleys," says Dave. "We also have touch-screen computers and switches so that IT is accessible for all of the children."
Alongside the school classrooms, there's a conservatory where you will do crafty stuff. Beyond that is the garden, so you can get a bit of fresh air.
There are lots of activities laid on too – such as outside visits to theatres and wildlife centres and people coming in to teach different skills, such as circus skills.
You may still miss your own school, so James Brindley can set up video links with your mates. The school will also check out with your own teachers what you've been working on, so you don’t end up doing the same things over again. And when you leave hospital, the school will arrange home tuition if you need it for a while or else it will speak to your own school to make sure everything's fine for your return.
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