Continued from p10
Death of a Nightingale, a play about the closure of a special school in 2002, still has a message for audiences today, says Jan Woolf.
vulnerable children feel they would be bullied and have their learning compromised in a mainstream school. After a corrupt consultation process, the fictional Brighouse was closed against the wishes of students, parents and staff. Alan Share’s real school, after an enlightened campaign, was not.
Many schools survived the cuts of the early 1990s to become centres of excellence, like Oak Lodge, a specialist learning and cognition college in the London Borough of Barnet. Oak Lodge educates 165 students with complex learning difficulties. Head Teacher Lynda Walker describes it as “a school where every student gets the right to the best education possible to meet their potential”.
She reminds us that children with often invisible difficulties would not be as easy to integrate into the mainstream as those with a physical or sensory difficulty – where the ‘gentling’ effect on mainstream children used to be one of the arguments for inclusion.
Oak Lodge was invited to provide students to work alongside professional actors in the play. Three were cast, including film star Max Lewis who worked with Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett in the 2008 movie Notes on a Scandal.
Although the play is set in 2002 it raises important issues, linking that era with the recent Green Paper proposing to get rid of the current statementing system, replacing it with a comprehensive health and care package involving all agencies working with a child. Lynda reminds us that “we have to guard every right of every child, as there is still a stigma in society about special schools. Death of a Nightingale provided an opportunity to revisit that debate”.
Teacher Malcolm Nicholls said: “The play raised issues of current funding cuts for other aspects of our students lives, like social and after school care – highlighting the fact that cuts are disproportionately hurting students and their families.”
• NUT members can buy Jan’s collection of short stories, Fugues on a Funny Bone, for the reduced price of £8 (quoting NUT). from www.muswell-press.co.uk
Jan Woolf worked for many years in special education. She took early retirement in 2006 to concentrate on writing and held the first Harold Pinter writers’ residency at the Hackney Empire, where her play Porn Crackers was produced.
| Page 2
| Page 3
| Page 4
| Page 5
| Page 6
| Page 7
| Page 8
| Page 9
| Page 10
| Page 11
| Page 12
| Page 13
| Page 14
| Page 15
| Page 16